Army all at sea in Canberra

This article has photo gallery Published on LSIS Helen Frank (author), POIS Ollie Garside (photographer)

Members of 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, practice weapons drills on the flight deck of HMAS Canberra. (photo: LSIS Helen Frank)
Members of 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, practice weapons drills on the flight deck of HMAS Canberra.

Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment have hit the high seas as the regiment embarked on the Navy’s Landing Helicopter Dock HMAS Canberra for the first time.

The ship recently completed First of Class Trials and is now working towards achieving Unit Readiness. The Unit Readiness evaluation will assess the ship across all her capabilities including deploying Army personnel, vehicles and equipment via helicopter and landing craft.

The Australian Defence Force has not had this level of amphibious capability before and many were excited to put the ship through her paces.

Soldiers embarked the ship in Townsville and wasted no time in familiarising themselves with the vessel.

Private Colin Luck, an infantryman from Bravo Company said he was impressed with Canberra, not only the size but also with the ship’s capabilities.

“The force integration that the Navy is now capable of is great,” Private Luck said.

“Having a battle group with 2 RAR and all the attachments onboard is exciting.”

Private Luck said the sailors were very helpful in giving the soldiers directions around the ship when they were looking a little lost and the hospitality onboard Canberra was great.

“Without getting our mess in trouble, the Navy meals definitely trump ours,” he said.

The troops will go through a number of training serials and evolutions while they are onboard starting with learning the ship’s routine such as emergency and leaving ship stations.

Private Luck said getting used to the Navy jargon was a little tricky but the troops had been well briefed and knew where they had to be.

“We all managed to get to the right places at the right time and be accounted for so it all went well,” he said.

Soldiers from 2RAR in the Troop Assembly Area (TAA) during Assault Stations onboard HMAS Canberra.

Soldiers from 2RAR in the Troop Assembly Area (TAA) during Assault Stations onboard HMAS Canberra.

Canberra’s Amphibious Operations Officer, Major Mathew Singers said the initial embarkation of the 26 vehicles and 156 troops also went very smoothly.

“In regards to vehicles, we have everything from G wagons to ASLAVs onboard,” Major Singers said.

“The troops include engineers, infantry, artillery, drivers, clerks, signallers and two Explosive Detection dogs.”

The ship will exercise assault stations where the troops and the ship’s company will practise moving personnel through the Troop Assembly Area on the light cargo deck up to the flight deck and also down to the well dock.

Major Singers said after the initial practise the troops will move through the process in full combat load, collecting the equipment they would take ashore and rehearsing loading into helicopters and landing craft.

He said the process would test the ship’s standard operating procedures for both tactical and non-tactical deployment of troops.

“After being with this project for the last 18 months it’s good to finally find out how the amphibious element fits,” he said.

“It’s good in the respect that we are filling the gaps in our knowledge by putting into practise what we had previously only seen on paper.

“We are understanding and clarifying those issues we had only seen from a theoretical perspective and we can now adjust the procedures to eliminate those problems.”

Later this year Canberra will return to the north east coast to begin a series of exercises again embarking the regiment.

“This first exercise has been focused on Unit Readiness and making sure the ship can deploy amphibious forces in what would generally benign environment,” Major Singers said. 

“In the second half of the year, these exercises will progressively work the ship and 2 RAR up to be able to deploy amphibious forces by sea and by air in a tactical, high threat environment.”