Navy’s newest officers get a taste for life at sea

Published on LEUT Todd Fitzgerald (author), POIS Paul McCallum (photographer)

Location(s): Townsville, QLD

Topic(s): New Entry Officers’ Course (NEOC), Exercise SEA HORIZON

New Entry Officers' Course trainee Midshipman Samuel Ross takes in the view as HMAS Adelaide arrives in Townsville. (photo: POIS Paul McCallum)
New Entry Officers' Course trainee Midshipman Samuel Ross takes in the view as HMAS Adelaide arrives in Townsville.

More than 100 trainee officers experienced life at sea on a warship for the first time when they joined HMAS Adelaide for her journey from Sydney to Townsville recently.

The two-week deployment was part of their initial entry training and exposed them to the day-to-day life of a sailor at sea by getting them to work with each department onboard.

Midshipman Eleanor Brownlie, who joined as a Maritime Warfare Officer and hopes to one day drive a major fleet unit such as Adelaide, said it was an exciting look into her future.

“We conducted machinery rounds, cooked unquantifiable amounts of bacon, fixed broken sensors, cleaned oil spills, tested fire hoses and were sent into the bilges to clean,” she said.

“I was also fortunate enough to be on the bridge to witness Adelaide’s pilotage through the Whitsundays, which made me both excited and exceedingly nervous.”

The Navy’s newest and biggest warship was taking part in Exercise SEA HORIZON, allowing the visitors to see amphibious operations.

Army, Air Force and Navy, as well as elements of the United States and British defence forces, were onboard for the exercise, which trained Adelaide for operations such as Humanitarian Assistance, Disaster Relief and Non-Combatant Evacuations.

Divisional Officer, Lieutenant Damon Vizl, was in charge of the New Entry Officers.

He said the exposure to operational activity was an excellent introduction for them to the tri-service environment that the Australian Defence Force was moving into.

“Demonstrations of Adelaide’s capability, including multiple helicopter operations, landing craft launchings and damage control exercises, all being conducted concurrently, provided valuable exposure to the trainees,” he said.

The officers’ first foray into life at sea was a crucial part of the initial entry training, Lieutenant Vizl said.

“It helps them to understand what they are asking of their sailors when they ask them to clean out a bilge, stand a watch as a lookout in the rain, prepare meals for 400 people and sort the garbage,” he said.

Adelaide’s crew was incredibly supportive and had positively affected the development of the new officers.

Lieutenant Vizl said the deployment was highly successful, both in building a relationship between Creswell and Adelaide and in the development of the officers.

Midshipman Eleanor Brownlie agreed.

“Officers and sailors alike made us feel, at least for a short time, like a proper part of a working ship’s company,” she said.

“It was a look into the world in which we have chosen to invest our lives and careers, and we can’t wait to get out there again.”

The 22-week-long New Entry Officers’ Course is conducted at the Royal Australian Naval College, HMAS Creswell. It imparts non-specialist skills and the general military knowledge necessary to serve as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy.

Key topics covered include leadership, teamwork, drill and ceremonial, and naval history.