Graduates praise student-instructor relationship

This article has photo gallery Published on Ms Dallas McMaugh (author), CPOIS Cameron Martin (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Albatross, NSW

Topic(s): 723 Squadron, Graduation

723 Squadron instuctor, Lieutenant Tammielee Hunter with an EC-135 helicopter. (photo: CPOIS Cameron Martin)
723 Squadron instuctor, Lieutenant Tammielee Hunter with an EC-135 helicopter.

Twenty-one new Pilots, Aviation Warfare Officers and Aircrewmen have graduated their initial rotary-wing training and into the next phase of their careers.

The Australian Defence Force Joint Helicopter School was established in 2018 within Navy’s 723 Squadron at HMAS Albatross.

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Green, who assumed Command of 723 Squadron in December 2019, says his time in this role definitely hasn’t been boring.

“This year we have had the bushfires, floods and COVID-19 but one consistent highlight is always the students. Their enthusiasm is contagious,” Lieutenant Colonel Green said.

“The Squadron has three key strengths. Firstly, our instructors are all very professional and deeply invested in producing the best trainees for the ADF.

“Secondly, our facilities are state of the art, when the students arrive it adds to their motivation to see such professional facilities.

“And third, our contractors, who are all genuinely invested in getting the best outcomes from all of the students,” he said.

Lieutenant Colonel Green says it’s not just about imparting technical skills, there are other important qualities not found in any training manuals.

“Mental resilience is definitely one. Aircrew training is long and normally involves emotional highs and lows.

“In order to pass this course you need to be able to maintain an even temperament for an extended period. Success builds self-belief which reinforces mental resilience.”

Lieutenant Tammielee Hunter, who was an MRH-90 pilot before joining the Squadron as a Qualified Flying Instructor, says this is definitely the most rewarding job she’s ever had.

“Taking someone who’s never flown a helicopter before through all of the phases, and watching them fly terrain flight approaches at 50ft at night using night vision goggles is very cool,” she said.

“It’s also important to stress how important time management of the flying sorties are, to ensure you get everything in that you need to and allow plenty of practice time.

“Another key thing to pass on to the students is all of the ancillary stuff that forms the day to day habits and attitudes towards safety that they can fall back on when it all gets mission-focused,” Lieutenant Hunter said.

Newly winged Army Pilot, Lieutenant Liam Irwin said he was impressed by the Instructors motivation to teach paired with their experience.

“The learning environment and student-instructor relationship were so much better than I expected, making the course more enjoyable,” Lieutenant Irwin said.

“For me, motivation, approachability and patience are all key in a productive learning environment.

“All of us on course made mistakes, had questions and sometimes took longer to learn certain sequences than others which the instructors understood and then adapted the way they taught to suit.”

Fellow Navy pilot Lieutenant Samuel Clark particularly enjoyed the diversity in training.

“One day you are flying low level through valleys on night vision goggles, the next you are landing on a ship for the first time,” he said

“My first deck landing was probably my favourite single moment on course.

“While it was more difficult than I expected, I also never thought flying helicopters would be so much fun.

“I really appreciated the experience and career diversity of the instructors, each had a unique style of instruction which provided the students with more than one way to achieve the training syllabus.”

Lieutenant Mark Packer, is one of the Aviation Warfare Instructors at the Squadron. 

“Aviation Warfare Officers play an integral role, acting as Mission Commander running the strategic use of an array of weapon and sensor systems, and responsible for directing and supporting operations by providing key tactical and strategic information.

“As an Instructor it’s really enjoyable seeing Ab-Initio students with no prior aviation experience develop through a challenging course to earn their wings.” LEUT Packer said.

Aviation Warfare Officer graduate Sub Lieutenant Olivia Veal said she enjoyed the extra responsibilities and hands-on opportunities that were provided.

“I particularly enjoyed the embarked sorties, doing deck landings to the back of Multi-Role Aviation Training Vessel Sycamore.

“Being in the Navy, that is hopefully what I will end up doing as a part of my long term career, so it was a lot of fun to do it in the EC-135 helicopter.

“I gained a lot of new experiences flying with aircrewmen which I’d never had before, which was fantastic.

“I think a good instructor is one who can understand the role and apply their knowledge to help us progress in our flying careers. The instructors that I had the opportunity to fly with have all been this way.

“When it comes to teaching styles, I like to be told what is required of me and then have to opportunity to test and adjust in a simulator before having to perform in the actual aircraft. The ability to make mistakes as well as test and adjust in a not so safety-critical environment like a simulator is excellent,” Sub Lieutenant Veal said.

The graduates’ success was achieved with the support of a much bigger team, which was acknowledged by a big thank you to their families, the Fleet Air Arm, 723 Squadron personnel and support agencies, and of course, the dedicated Instructors.

Royal Australian Navy Aviation Careers information can be found here: