There was an air of excitement mixed with a bit of apprehension as more than a hundred members of New Entry Officers’ Course (NEOC) 50 embarked in HMAS Choules for their sea training deployment - a key milestone in their initial training to become qualified officers in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).
NEOC is the foundation course for most new officers joining the Royal Australian Navy. Upon completion, graduates will go on to undertake a wide range of careers, in areas such as maritime warfare, engineering, logistics, medicine, nursing and law.
For most of the new officers, the sea training deployment represents their first opportunity to get to know how a ship works, with each member spending time within every department of the ship.
Midshipman Caitlin Watkins from Port Elliot in South Australia captured the feelings shared by many of her colleagues.
“I'm looking forward to going to sea and getting hands on with actual Navy work.
“The chance to work in every department of the ship and learn from qualified sailors and officers is the most important aspect of this deployment,” Midshipman Watkins said.
“Choules is also one of the Navy’s major amphibious ships so this is a particularly unique and exciting opportunity.”
Commanding Officer of Choules, Commander Ashley Papp, reinforced the pivotal role that the ship plays in amphibious operations undertaken by the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
“Amphibious capability is a key part of future ADF military operations, along with the capability to conduct Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).
“Our New Entry Officers get to see one of the Navy’s most important capabilities underway, and be part of the ship's visit to Auckland - Choules’ first visit to a foreign port since being commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy,” said Commander Papp.
The prospect of being involved in future HADR operations was appealing to many New Entry Officers, including Midshipman Matthew Newman from Newcastle, New South Wales.
“I had the opportunity to undertake aid work in Kerema in Papua New Guinea's Gulf Province before I joined the Navy.
“Having had the chance to do aid work and the Kokoda Trail gave me further inspiration to join Service life,” said Midshipman Newman.
The NEOC contingent in Choules is being guided by a core team from the Royal Australian Navy College at HMAS Creswell led by Lieutenant Commander Luke Weston, Officer in Charge of Sea Training Deployment.
“The deployment in Choules and the visit to New Zealand gives the New Entry Officers exposure to aspects of life at sea and the important role the Navy plays in diplomacy.
“It’s a great opportunity for an international engagement during maritime training,” Lieutenant Commander Weston said.
Choules is a Bay Class landing ship dock (LSD) with a large flight deck which can accommodate two Chinook helicopters and a docking well in the stern capable of operating a LCM-8 or two LCVP landing craft.
The military lift includes the capacity to load and transport up to 32 Abrams tanks, or 150 light trucks. They can carry a normal load of 356 troops, or 700 in an emergency or conflict. They are designed to operate over the horizon using helicopters and landing craft, to get men and equipment ashore.
Choules was purchased by the Royal Australian Navy from the Royal Navy in 2011 and was commissioned Choules on 13 December 2011.
Imagery is available on the Royal Australian Navy Image Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20141439.