With just a couple of weeks until graduation, the heat is definitely on for the 14 Aviation Support (AVN) trainees who have just completed the firefighting and rescue phase of their 19 week course.
AVN sailors secure and oversee all aircraft ground handling ashore and on the flight and hangar decks of Navy’s two largest ships, HMAS Adelaide and Canberra.
Their training covers all aspects of Landing Helicopter Dock aviation operations including aviation safety and aircraft movements. The current training continuum is also the first to include Squadron Support Operations, a technical skills component delivered at 808 and 725 Squadrons.
The firefighting and rescue scenario presented to the trainees involved a very realistic simulation of a helicopter crash and trainees were required to battle a fire, secure the aircraft and rescue the aircrew.
Instructor PO Paul Parnell said that when assessing the trainees’ performance in these situations many factors came into consideration.
"I’m looking for effective team communication, safe work practices; I want to see them caring for their buddy and any casualties and developing both their assertiveness and situational awareness."
Trainee SMN Kiia Chivers described this phase of the training as "intense".
"The simulations we were required to respond to were worse case scenarios and I think it really opened my eyes to the fact that if it came down to it and it was a real life situation I would be responsible for saving lives."
The Aviation Support category is becoming an increasingly popular career path with females. In this latest intake of 14, nine of the participants are women and once graduated, those nine will take the overall percentage of women in these roles within the Navy to 22 per cent.
SMN Chivers said that while there were both physical and mental challenges there was a great satisfaction in meeting them.
"There is a lot of manual handling, some of the dummies we were lifting in the rescue scenario were equal to my own body weight, but it’s something we are trained for. When you get it right and you know you can perform the task required of you, it is especially satisfying."
"I was drawn to the Navy because I wanted the opportunity to help out and to make a difference. The AVN category gives me the opportunity to work with aircraft and I must say it’s great coming to work every day and seeing how they operate," SMN Chivers said.
According to PO Parnell, the Aviation Support category is suited for anyone with a desire for hands-on outdoor work.
"We are looking for people with an ability to react quickly to change and dynamic situations, someone who enjoys working in teams with an eye for detail and good self-awareness. So for those who enjoy being active and learning unique skills, it’s very satisfying." PO Parnell said.