When the crew of HMAS Armidale transferred material control to Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group in Cairns for their scheduled extended maintenance period in February, the coronavirus restrictions had not yet come into force in Australia. What happened next was anything but business as usual.
The crew returned to Darwin expecting to conduct a full pre-workup training program prior to the maintenance period completing. As for many in Fleet units, travel restrictions, social distancing and home isolation requirements quickly threw a spanner in the works.
Innovative solutions were required to ensure the crew would be ready to take back control of the ship when maintenance was nearing completion.
While pre-workup training in the ‘usual’ fashion was not possible, the crew of Armidale were provided excellent support by local Training Authority - Maritime Warfare (TA-MW) staff, and made good use of distance-based learning to ensure all personnel were ready to conduct Duty-Watch certification and Mariner Skills Evaluation in early May.
Flexible programming and support from Sea Training Unit-North and the allocation of HMAS Bathurst as a host platform enabled Armidale to progress through necessary training both alongside and at sea.
Lieutenant Thomas Miller, Armidale’s Executive Officer, was impressed by how the team came together to achieve the training.
“With a number of new personnel, we had to build our teamwork quickly but everyone worked really hard to achieve necessary competencies,” he said.
For Armidale Class Patrol Boat crews, training in another ship is not altogether unusual and processes exist for a ‘quick handover’ of platform if required for training or patrol periods.
However, what was a little unusual was the daily taking over and handing back of the platform to allow Bathurst’s crew to also conduct preparations for her own collective training period.
This cooperative approach ensured that both ships met their training objectives and enhanced the capability of the Patrol Boats.
COVID-19 related precautions, including temperature testing of personnel and increased cleaning frequency and focus, were enforced to ensure the safety and wellbeing of both crews and sea trainers.
The experience has reinforced the strong ties and professional attitude within the patrol boat community and strengthened relationships between the two crews.
“The experience was professionally rewarding, and I appreciated the opportunity to support and learn from Armidale’s medic,” Bathurst Medic Able Seaman Annika Svensson said.