The light at the end of the tunnel

Published on LEUT Kenric Smith (author), LEUT Kenric Smith (photographer)

Location(s): Goulburn, New South Wales

Tired and Dirty after Caving LEUT Jessica Webster, SBLT Tania Nathan, LEUT Kenric Smith and LEUT Luke Reynoldson, , at the Bungonia Caves (photo: LEUT Kenric Smith)
Tired and Dirty after Caving LEUT Jessica Webster, SBLT Tania Nathan, LEUT Kenric Smith and LEUT Luke Reynoldson, , at the Bungonia Caves

Naval officers are used to wide open spaces, endless ocean and far off horizons, so for the officers undertaking the Naval Officer Leadership Course 1 at HMAS Creswell in Jervis Bay, the course presents some distinct challenges.

A practical leadership development activity has them descending into the Bungonia Caves to test both their physical and mental resilience whilst climbing and crawling through the depths of these unique caves located near Goulburn, New South Wales.

Recent participant, Lieutenant Luke Reynoldson, was tasked with leading his team through the initial descent into Fossil Cave.

“The map took me to a small hole in the ground which looked no bigger then a wombat hole," he said.

"It was a tight squeeze initially, however once we started our descent, the small hole opened into this amazing cave system”.

Course members spent a day climbing and crawling through the many caves situated in the Bungonia Caving Area. At the end of the day, although exhausted, they felt a great sense of achievement.

Instructor, Lieutenant Mark Johnson said students found the experience both challenging and scary at times “Some certainly have to face a few fears in the cave system," he said.

"Some have fears of heights and confined spaces and the experience certainly pushes their limits, but it is amazing what can be achieved when you work together as a team," he said.

Officers undertake two further weeks of training after the practical exercise before returning to the fleet to consolidate their new leadership skills. The course develops participants in their roles as Assistant Divisional Officers.

The course is the second phase of the Leadership Management and Professional Development continuum for full-time Naval Officers. After completing initial training, officers complete a series of advanced training courses to develop the necessary management and leadership skills required in the military environment.

Practical leadership components provide opportunity to put key leadership principles into practice.