Sad but exciting day for the family recently when my baby girl Stephanie left the Sunshine Coast to join the Royal Australian Navy.
Stephanie has been studying and training for the last year and is now residing on HMAS Cerberus which is located about 2 hours south of Melbourne.
This base is the Navy training centre for all new sailors Australia wide. If you have a little spare time, you can read what is involved for the first 11 weeks of training....a bit of an eye opener for the mummy let me tell you!!!!
Stephanies journey over the next 22 weeks will be as tough as it comes but we all know she will make it through and do well. We are all so very proud of her!!!
Phase 1 – Week 1In weeks 1 to 4 Recruits are on a steep learning curve as they adjust to their new environment and routines. This phase begins on day one with enlistment and travel to HMAS Cerberus, when they arrive at Recruit School a little apprehensive, but ready for the challenges ahead. The first full day at Recruit School is a big eye opener for many as it starts at 5:00am and it is non stop from there, with the first major task being introduced to their Instructors and Divisional staff. As week one progresses, Recruits undertake a wide variety of indoctrination activities and briefings. Examples of the items covered in week 1 include briefings on Occupational Health and Safety, Fire Safety, Navy Values, Ethos and Environmental Awareness, Living in Communal Harmony, Pay and Entitlements, Equity and Diversity, Psychological Support Services, Study Skills and Lifestyle. Some important activities undertaken in week one include Physical Fitness testing, Swim testing, Uniform sizing, Haircuts and Marching practise just to name a few. Mid way through week 1, all Recruits change from wear civilian clothing to theRAN issue Track Suit top and pants. They continue to wear this until the end of week 2, by which time most other uniform items have been issued.
It is normal for some Recruits to experience homesickness in the initial stages of their training. Recruit School staff are well informed on how to support and assist Recruits in this regard and parents, relatives and friends can be of significant assistance also with words of support and encouragement.
Phase 1 – Week 2In week 2 Recruits continue theory classes where they learn more basic information about life in the Navy. Some examples include modules on Navy Organisation, Culture, Ethos, Traditions, Ceremonies and Illegal Drug Awareness. Physical Training (referred to as PT), also form a regular part of the training program which is aimed at improving fitness, teamwork and confidence. During the week Recruits continue to practice and improve their marching technique as well as their general transition into the military life. Week 2 also includes their first major challenge – ‘Shakedown’.
‘Shakedown’ is a Navy reference to a series of basic evolutions that an Australian Warship will undertake after a prolonged maintenance period. It is aimed at putting a ship’s crew through a series of routine situations that could occur whilst at sea. At Recruit School, ‘Shakedown’ is designed to give the Recruits their first physical challenge.
‘Shakedown’ is a full day activity that requires Recruits to complete a series of predominantly physical activities to instil teamwork, leadership, communication and initiative. The primary emphasis is on teamwork and Recruits quickly learn that the most effective way to succeed is work together and support each other through the various evolutions. Activities undertaken throughout the day include a series of team building exercises, an arduous forced march, swimming pool based water exercise, sandpit exercise and a cross country running activity. Recruits work in teams with their classmates and points are awarded to each class based on their overall performance. These points, together with points awarded throughout the remainder of their Recruit training, go towards the award of a Divisional Shield which is presented to the winning class by the Commanding Officer Recruit School, in week 10 of the training program.
Phase 1 – Week 3This is an exciting time for Recruits as they get the chance to wear their Navy issue uniform for the first time. During working hours, Recruits wear ‘Dress of the Day’ which comprises long blue pants, blue shirt, GP Boots and a Legionnaires Cap. After working hours, Recruits change into ‘night clothing’ which comprises long black pants and white shirt (Summer) and long back pants, white shirt, tie and black bomber jacket (Winter). Black shoes are worn with both these uniforms.
The issue of uniforms presents a variety of new challenges for Recruits, particularly in the areas of ‘kit’ (uniform) maintenance, which is expected to be of the highest standard. Much time is spent washing, ironing and naming kit items, which Recruits then stow in their Lockers. They are also introduced to ‘Locker Inspections’ during week three the aim of which is to ensure that ‘kit’ items are correctly laundered, ironed, folded and stowed as outline in the Recruit Kit Maintenance Manual.
An important lesson for the Recruits is the military method of presenting their kit for inspection, otherwise known as a ‘kit muster’. Kit musters are generally performed at random in order to confirm and ensure a sailor has a full set of uniform and that they have been maintaining it to a good state of repair. Kit musters are also issued as a means of Corrective Training to assist a sailor in perfecting the fundamental skills required to maintain his or her uniform and importantly, wear it with pride.
A highlight for Recruits in week 3 is participating in their first Commanding Officer’s (CO) Parade. This is an opportunity for Recruits to display the hard work they have put into preparing their uniforms. The parade includes a Formal Inspection, Prayers and a March Past which is reviewed by the CO.
The training tempo remains high throughout the period and modules typically undertaken in week 3 include, Goal Setting and Motivation, Alcohol Awareness and Education, Character Formation – Conflict, Competency Management, ADF Security, Inoculations and Class Photographs are taken.
Week 3 also sees the continuation of paperwork for Passport and Security Clearance Applications. It is extremely important that this paperwork is submitted by the completion of week 6 as it can affect future training, including Initial Category Course. The assistance of family to expedite the process and forward relevant documents would be greatly appreciated.
Phase 2 – Week 4Week 4 maintains the high training tempo with outcomes designed to achieve steady improvement in teamwork and increased understanding of Recruit School routines, culture and ethos. Week 4 typically includes 2 days of basic First Aid training. This is an important part of the Recruit training as all sailors and officers in the RAN must be capable of administering basic first aid during emergencies situations.
A challenging aspect of week 4 includes completion of the HMAS Cerberus Higher Ropes Course. This is an exiting whole day activity that is designed to develop teamwork, trust, communication and compliance to safety instructions. Working 10 meters above the ground, Recruits negotiate numerous challenges incorporated in the course, under the strict control and direction of qualified High Ropes Course Instructors. Whilst it takes most out of their comfort zone, Recruits generally find it an exhilarating experience and gain a great sense of achievement and self confidence out of the day. Once again Recruits need to work together and support each other in order to achieve their goals. Can you see a familiar theme building here?
Friday of week 4 is a big day for Recruits as they undertake two significant milestones on their journey through the 11 week training program. The first of these is a formal written assessment against what they have learnt so far. This assessment is conducted under strictly controlled conditions and runs over a 2 hour period. The assessment is then formally marked and Recruits receive feedback on their progress to date.
The second of these significant events is Warrant Officer’s Rounds. This is first of three major inspections conducted by the Recruit School Command Team. For these rounds the Recruit School WO inspects the cleanliness of the accommodation block ablutions, block foyer, cabins, bunks and the state of each Recruit’s locker. Recruits are required to put many hours of hard work and effort into ensuring all these areas are of the highest standard. Further, this is an important milestone in their training as it marks their transition from the junior class at Recruit School to the Intermediate Class.
Phase 2 – Week 5The Division is now at the intermediate stage. More responsibility is placed upon the Recruits and there is an expectation that they will set a good example for the incoming new Recruits of the junior division.
The standards of performance and conduct are gradually raised and maintained in Phase Two. This increase in standards occurs progressively, but even at this stage of the induction training there is a noticeable difference in the Recruits. From this point of training the more important components commence.
The Recruits will undergo two days of Survival at Sea training and receive important instruction on various survival techniques. On completion of this module of training the Recruits will have the knowledge and skills necessary to operate life saving equipment and an understanding of the procedures in place on RAN ships. The instruction includes lessons on the proper use of personal protection equipment including lifejackets and thermal protection suits. As part of the first days instruction Recruits undertake a theory exam which they must pass, before they are permitted to undertake the practical session on day two. The practical phase sees Recruits undertake a variety of exercises with include, donning a thermal protection suit, execute a safe water entry, launch a life raft, and practice survival at sea techniques.
Survival at Sea is followed by two days of Corrosion Control at the Seamanship Faculty. Because of the unique working environment, all sailors require training in how to preserve the assets of the RAN and maintain them in good working order. Safety, as in all components of training, is paramount. The Recruits are taught how to properly use maintenance equipment and personal protective equipment.
Instruction on Friday of week five is conducted back at the Recruit School. Here further parade ground drill is conducted culminating in a drill progress test. Later in the day a kit muster is conducted to gauge whether the Recruits are meeting the high standards expected of them.
Phase 2 – Week 6Week six presents the opportunity for Recruits to undertake two and a half days of Sea Familiarisation Training onboard the MV SEAHORSE SPIRIT. Recruits are transported to Stoney Point on Westernport Bay, where they receive a safety brief and store ship prior to the ship putting to sea. Whilst onboard Recruits put into practice the seamanship skills learnt thus far. They conduct the duties of Helmsman and Lookout. When not required to stand watches, Recruits undergo several training drills that reinforce the seamanship and safety skills they have learnt to date. Historically, the Recruits thoroughly enjoy the Sea Familiarisation Training component onboard the SEAHORSE SPIRIT, especially if King Neptune provides a calm sea state! Whilst some may experience their first bout of seasickness, this usually passes quickly once they come to terms with their new environment and get their ‘sea legs’.
On their return to Recruit School on Wednesday afternoon it’s straight into a session of physical training.
On Thursday weapons training commences with a comprehensive safety brief being the first order of the day. Recruits are taught over an eight day period (spread over two to three weeks), how to safely operate the F88 Austeyr rifle in the training and operational environment. Recruits have to demonstrate that they understand the safe operation, working parts and weapon firing drills. After passing a practical assessment with the F88 Austeyr rifle recruits will move on to the next stage of training. During this stage the recruits will conduct a qualifying live firing practise at Williams Rifle range HMAS Cerberus. In this practise the recruits will fire 10 live rounds at a designated target. For the majority of Recruits this training is their first experience of weapon handling but by the end of their training on the F88, Recruits are familiar and confident. Weapon training is safety focused and the instruction is given by highly qualified Recruit School staff. More details about this training are detailed below in week 7.
Phase 2 – Week 7Week 7 commences with the Recruits progressing through the F88 weapon training. On completion of the qualification shoot recruits will be taught basic marksmanship skills and then zero a rifle utilizing the Weapons Training Simulator System (WTSS) located at HMASCerberus. The WTSS is a computerised simulation of the F88 Austeyr rifle. Once these skills have been mastered at the WTSS recruits will zero a rifle on a live firing range. Other activities undertaken during week 7 include continuation of physical training and drill.
Phase 2 – Week 8In week eight the most popular module of training is undertaken. Over four days the Recruits are instructed on Standard Combat Survivability at the School of Ship Survivability and Safety (SSSS); affectionately referred to as the school of many S’s. The instruction components comprise of theory exam and multiple practical exercises, where Recruits must demonstrate that they can use the combat survivability skills they have been taught. At the end of this module the Recruits will have learnt how to complete repairs in a simulated damage control environment, extinguish different types of fires, take precautions for different threats, and deal with toxic hazards in the workplace, and how to safely operate a breathing apparatus. All officers and sailors in the RAN must be competent in combat survivability.
The highlight of training at SSSS is putting all the damage control skills to use. Here the Recruits utilise a purpose build mock up of a ship where are required to work together in confined spaces in order to extinguish fires and deal with flooding compartments. This training is designed to be realistic as possible and Recruits get hands on practise on how to deal for fires and floods in a maritime environment. As with all training undertaken in the RAN, safety is paramount and is the number one priority at the SSSS.
Phase 2 – Week 9For the first two days of week 9 Recruits continue with F88 Steyr training. At this stage Recruits are taught how to fire from various positions eg whilst lying on the ground. Once this is mastered they undertake further practise at the Weapons Training Simulator System prior to conducting final live fire drills and assessments at the Rifle Range.
During Week 9 Recruits participate in Character Formation and Mess Relationship instruction which is conducted by the Recruit School Chaplain. These two modules are very important as all members of the Navy team need to understand the importance of maintaining good order and discipline, whilst living and working in close quarters. For many Recruits it is their first experience of living in a communal environment and it is pleasing to note that most adapt very quickly.
At the end of week nine Recruits begin to enter the consolidation phase of their training.
Phase 3 – Week 10In Week 10 Recruits complete all outstanding class activities and modules. In addition a Divisional sports carnival is held, where classes dress up in crazy outfits and compete against each other in a round robin competition. Monday of week 10 also marks “Day 64” for the Recruits. Day 64 presents the opportunity for Recruits to elect to discharge from the Navy if they choose to do so. It is every Recruits right to exercise this option with no questions asked; some simple decide that it is not the career they want to pursue. Historically very few Recruits exercise the day 64 optional discharge; most go on to enjoy rewarding careers in the RAN.
Week 10 also sees Recruits further consolidate their drill and marching techniques in preparation for their final drill exam.
The Unit Readiness Evaluation (URE) is one of the final hurdles in the Recruits’ training and is conducted on Thursday of Week 10. The URE tests the core skills that Recruits have been taught throughout their training, namely teamwork, time management, communal harmony, leadership and communication.
At sea the purpose of the URE is to achieve the appropriate level of readiness prior to Operational Deployment. In order to pass URE the ship must first demonstrate that it is capable of fighting in the warfare environment and able to control any subsequent damage control incidents. Once all these competences have been completed the ship will then be evaluated during a 48 hour ‘Warfare Scenario’ where all competencies will be formally assessed to the limit.
Activities conducted during the Recruit School URE include an endurance circuit, a survival activity in the pool, a forced march through bush carrying a tent and stretchers (which incorporates first aid activities) and a sandpit bunker building exercise. Points are awarded for each activity based on teamwork and the team’s ability to successfully complete the tasks. The day culminates with a 2.4km run as classes go through their paces at the infamous HMASCerberus Mud Run.
The URE brings together the skills that Recruits have learnt over the past 10 weeks and points are awarded for each activity on an aggregated basis, to determine which class is awarded the ‘Class of the Intake’.
The second day in URE is dedicated to formal Commanding Officer’s rounds. To prepare for this, the Recruits must clean and tidy their accommodation block and cabins to an immaculate standard. Recruits are required to wear their ceremonial uniform for the occasion and lay their kit for inspection. Upon successful completion of rounds, Recruits enjoy a barbeque at the Sobroan Club before proceeding on leave for the weekend (if they have earned it!).
Phase 3 – Week 11 - GraduationBeing their final week at Recruit School the main focus is on one goal: the Graduation Parade which takes place on Friday of week 11. To achieve this, armed drill and specific marching drills are taught throughout the week to ensure Recruits are well prepared for the events on Graduation Day.
In the evenings throughout Week 11, Recruits concentrate on uniform maintenance and boot polishing to ensure they are immaculately turned out on the day. Dress and bearing must be of the highest order.
On Graduation Day, five awards are presented, namely Recruit of the Intake, Academic Recruit of the Intake, Top Shot of the Intake, Leadership Award and Sportsperson of the Intake. These awards recognise the unique skill and attitudes displayed by the recipients.
The Graduation Parade is the highlight of the 11 week training program and formally recognises all the hard work and effort put in by Recruits and staff over the 11 week journey. Through hard work and application, Graduating Recruits have proven they are worthy to progress to the next phase of their training and family and friends often marvel at the changes their loves have made in such a short time. Graduation day is a very special day for all those involved and family and friends travel from far and wide to be part of this very important occasion.
On graduation Recruits are formally recognised as ‘sailors’ in the RAN and they are promoted to the rank of Seaman (star), prior to commencing their category specific training.
"Love what I do"