On 5 May 1998 a fire on HMAS Westralia (II) claimed the lives of four crew members. Leading Seaman Bradley Meek was one of the sailors who perished.
Each year nominations are forwarded from the three RAN School of Survivability and Ship Safety (RANSSSS) Training facilities for the award named in his honour. The Bradley Meek Perpetual Shield is presented for instructional excellence in Combat Survivability. Selecting the winner is never an easy task considering the high calibre of staff across the organisation.
The winner for 2018 was PO Kevin West and the presentation of the award was recently conducted at HMAS Creswell, RANSSSS Training Facility East, by Captain Craig Powell.
Working in the maritime environment is not without its hazards and the risks are ever present. The fire on board Westralia (II) was a clear demonstration of what can go wrong and how fast a situation such as this can escalate.
In circumstances such as these, if the ship is to survive, then good, clear direction with decisive leadership is required to ensure that damage control (DC) countermeasure efforts are quickly deployed to contain the incident and prevent the spread of damage.
The RAN School of Survivability and Ship Safety (RANSSSS) is responsible for preparing sailors and officers with these skill sets so they can become effective members of a ship’s DC organisation.
For personnel to contribute to this outcome, the school and the wider Navy relies on experienced and capable instructors to teach people incident response procedures for fires, floods and toxic hazards. These highly skilled trainers also teach sailors and officers how to conduct self-protection drills in the face of a chemical, biological or radiological threat.
In order to deliver on this responsibility staff at the school are required to undertake comprehensive training before they are ready to instruct and this development program regularly produces very high quality instructors. The consistently positive feedback on instructional performance is evidence of this.
Captain Powell publicly acknowledged the fine work done by the RANSSSS and, in congratulating Petty Officer West for the well-deserved accolade, he reiterated the need for quality combat survivability instructors to assist ships in maintaining their DC capability.