Navy initiation of fire, flood and toxic hazards

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Todd Fitzgerald (author), LSIS Peter Thompson (photographer)

Location(s): Sydney, New South Wales

Australian Army soldiers Private Shannon Smith (left) and Private Tabbitha Peterken, who are both Royal Australian Corps of Transport cargo specialists employed onboard Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Adelaide. (photo: LSIS Peter Thompson)
Australian Army soldiers Private Shannon Smith (left) and Private Tabbitha Peterken, who are both Royal Australian Corps of Transport cargo specialists employed onboard Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Adelaide.

When Privates Tabbitha Peterken and Shannon Smith joined the Australian Army they never suspected their first posting would be to a Royal Australian Navy fleet unit.

But less than 12 months after enlisting and only three days after completing their initial employment training, the Cargo Specialists were sent to HMAS Adelaide - the Navy’s newest and one of its biggest ever warships.

The soldiers had little time to accustom themselves to Navy life as Adelaide began five months of intensive seaworthiness training designed to ready a ship for operation.

It was an initiation of fire, flood and toxic hazards, according to Private Smith.

“Learning about toxic hazards, fire fighting procedures, floods and how to set up shoring was a completely different world to anything we had done in the Army,” the 26-year-old from Sydney said.

Learning a whole new service was the most challenging part of the posting, according to Private Peterken.

“Ranks took a while to learn and so did the lingo,” she said. 

“In the Army a mess is where you eat but in the Navy that is where you sleep. That got confusing in my first week: trying to figure out whether I was going to bed or if I was going to have something to eat.”

Adelaide
 successfully conducted her Unit Readiness Evaluation 21-22 April in Jervis Bay to test if she is capable of safely carrying out humanitarian aid, disaster relief and non-combatant evacuation operations.

A unique aspect of both Canberra class amphibious ships – Adelaide and Canberra - is that, for the first time, Navy units are crewed by all services.

There are 59 Army, two Royal Australian Air Force and 387 Navy personnel posted to Adelaide

Air Force personnel for the Air Traffic Control billets and Cargo Specialist roles, among others, are filled by Army. 

Private Smith and Private Peterken are responsible for operating the cranes and forklifts and also loading up to eight-tonne trucks on and off the ship’s landing craft during amphibious operations.

Together they completed Recruit School at Kapooka, in New South Wales, before starting the Cargo Specialist Course at Ross Island Barracks in Townsville, Queensland.

They both agree travel is the best part of life in the Navy but while Private Peterken is planning to changeover and become an Officer with the Army Transport Corps, Private Smith is happy to continue serving on ships.