Toowoomba achieves readiness goals

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Mick Wheeler (author), LSIS Tara Byrne (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Toowoomba (F156), Sea Training Group, West Australian Exercise Area (WAXA)

HMAS Toowoomba boarding party members on the port waist as they prepare to begin a boarding party exercise for their Unit Readiness Evaluation. (photo: LSIS Tara Byrne)
HMAS Toowoomba boarding party members on the port waist as they prepare to begin a boarding party exercise for their Unit Readiness Evaluation.

The ship’s company of HMAS Toowoomba has been stretched and tested over the past six weeks as the warship was put through a Work-Up and Unit Readiness Evaluation (URE) in the West Australian Exercise Area.

Toowoomba returned to sea earlier this year following a 10-week external maintenance period (EMP) prior to Christmas.

Achieving Unit Readiness (UR) is a necessity for all ships following a major EMP or after a significant number of crew members change out.

The UR process assesses the base level of capabilities and competencies required across a spectrum of roles.

It’s designed to be challenging and can go for several months, starting with a program of low level training to establish or refresh skills in individual crew members and ship departments, before the focus expands to ensure the whole ship is working together as an effective fighting unit.

The capabilities trained and tested include various areas of war fighting, including defending against airborne, surface and sub-surface threats, using the ship’s torpedoes, missiles and 5-inch gun. The ability of the ship’s company to effectively carry out damage control and firefighting techniques and respond to toxic hazards and other emergencies is also tested.

Other competencies proven through the process include seamanship skills such as safe navigation, manoeuvring, ship handling and small boat operations, as well as communications, aviation, propulsion, weapons and sensor maintenance and marine engineering.

All the supporting sub-departments, such as Maritime Logistics (ML) – C (Chefs), ML-S (Support Operations), ML-SC (Supply Chain), ML-P (Personnel Operations) and Medics, were also evaluated.

Commanding Officer of HMAS Toowoomba, Commander Mitchell Livingstone, said the Work–Up process was designed to train and develop the team to confirm the ship was able to overcome challenges and execute the broad range of missions required of an Anzac class frigate.

“Achieving success in our Unit Readiness Evaluation was a significant milestone for the entire ship’s company.

“It’s a particularly complex and demanding team sport, requiring much hard work from every individual.

“The individual category courses and pre-Work-Up training such as combat survivability, boarding party and Command team training was critical to ensure we progressed towards achievement of the mandatory competencies.

“Weapons and sensors must be accurate, the engineering plant must be reliable and we are very well served by our Catering Team,” Commander Livingstone said.

He said the pace of a Work Up was graduated to accommodate all levels of experience and establish a baseline.

“Then the intensity lifts and the complexity grows.

“The mentoring and coaching role adopted by Sea Training Group was quite effective and assisted in maintaining the high levels of enthusiasm required to meet the daily challenges.

“In the end it comes down to teamwork, quick thinking, a bit of mongrel and the ability to rely on your shipmates to achieve Unit Readiness,” Commander Livingstone said.

The Work Up process requires the support of many units to achieve realistic training scenarios.

Units engaged to support Toowoomba through the process included HMAS Dechaineux, HMAS Stirling, the Royal Australian Air Force’s 79 SQN, Defence Maritime Services-West, Lancelin Gunnery Range, as well as many shore support organisations.

The various units all helped to create the realistic tactical situations required for the evaluation.

Toowoomba completed her Work Up and Unit Readiness Evaluation in mid-April departed Fleet Base West on Monday to join and exercise with an international Task Group operating in the East Asian region.

Additional imagery is available on the Defence Image Gallery: