HMAS Choules has just completed major preparations in Jervis Bay south of Sydney to prepare the ship for deployment to Bougainville for Operation RENDER SAFE 2014.
Choules’ 11-day comprehensive preparation included boarding-party training and officer of the watch manoeuvres with HMAS Arunta as well as whole of ship activities including man overboard drills, damage control exercises, mexeflote training, non-combatant evacuation exercises, and working with 6 Aviation Regiment’s Black Hawk helicopters to complete necessary check landing qualifications for pilots.
Choules carries two mexeflotes, each capable of ferrying up to 100 tonnes of vehicles, equipment and personnel between the ship and the shore in amphibious operations.
At the same time, boarding-party training was being conducted which encompassed the work up of two new boarding-party teams, enhancing the ship’s operational capability.
Sixteen personnel underwent intensive training including equipment drills, use of force familiarisation and simulated boarding operations. Additionally, the teams practised embarking onto fast recovery craft from Choules in rough seas.
Boarding Officer Sub Lieutenant Andrew Leupen said the training helped all members of the teams.
“It was exciting and a good step forward,” Sub Lieutenant Leupen said.
“The teams are to be commended for taking on this challenge with zeal and a can-do attitude."
Damage control exercises such as crash on deck to prepare for MRH-90 helicopter embarkation during RENDER SAFE were conducted to test the knowledge and readiness of the response team and aviation crew.
The aim was to gather valuable feedback in order to improve their situational awareness and active response if the highly unlikely situation should ever occur.
Ship’s Aviation Officer Lieutenant Commander Mark Whanslaw said flying evolutions with 808SQN’s MRH-90 helicopters and Army’s Black Hawks ensured Choules’ ship’s company was ready for their deployment.
“Conducting damage control exercises for aviation is an important requirement for the flight-deck team and ship work up for aviation operations,” Lieutenant Commander Whanslaw said.
“The crash on deck exercises re-enforced the key principles in fighting aircraft fires and introduced these to new flight-deck team members.”
The ship also conducted two days of aviation workups consisting of more than 150 deck landings, assisting 6 Aviation Regiment to achieve 14 pilot qualifications. The deck-landing training also involved a range of approach and landing procedures, including some with night vision.
Over the past 18 months Choules has upgraded 10 helicopter control officers and eight flight-deck marshallers as well as qualifying the majority of Navy and Army pilots in deck landing qualifications.
Embarking MRH-90s aboard Choules earlier this year was an important milestone for MRH-90 acceptance into service as an integral part of the ADF amphibious ready element.
Towards the end of shakedown, Choules mustered a whole ship exercise to simulate a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) as one of Choules’ major roles is the provision of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
The NEO simulated during the shakedown was built on a scenario whereby Australians found themselves in a politically unstable area.
All departments on board Choules were involved in the successful extraction, processing, and accommodating of ‘Australian nationals’.
The NEO aimed to prove Choules’ and her ship’s company’s capability, aid training of personnel in the NEO itself, and test important materiel such as the mexeflote, landing craft vehicle and personnel and the fast recovery craft.
Imagery is available on the Navy Image Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20142936.