Home' Navy News : November 26th 2009 Contents au/news/navynews
November 26, 2009
LEUT Calvin Johnson, 24, stands at
the centreline of HMAS Newcastle
(CMDR Justin Jones) as he guides her
through some of the most treacher-
ous waters of the Whitsunday Island
Group. LEUT Johnson is at 24 knots,
has no compass, no radar and only
300 yards of clear water each side of
From October 5-16, LEUT Johnson
and five of his course mates were pushed
to their physical and mental limits dur-
ing the sea assessment period (SAP) of
the Long N Navigation course.
Six students attempted the course
with five graduating successfully at the
completion of the SAP. LEUTs Calvin
Johnson, Shannon Murray, Robert Short,
Lee Weldon and Malcolm Wright have
now completed what many argue is one
of the most challenging courses in the
"The feeling of completing the
course was second to none and by far
one of the most satisfying experiences in
my career so far," LEUT Johnson said.
"When CAPT Ray Leggatt [Training
Authority Maritime Warfare -- TAMW]
told me I passed, I felt so much relief."
The aim of the course is to test ship
handling skills and naval gunfire sup-
port abilities and, most of all, aspiring
navigators' skills in high speed tactical
degraded pilotage in confined waters, by
day and night.
Students and staff embarked in
Newcastle from Cairns and, after one
day of planning, set sail for Fitzroy and
Dunk Islands. The first few pilotages
were conducted at high speed without
too many degradations.
Newcastle's Operations Officer,
LEUT Warren Bechly, said the ship was
travelling at a speed that would make
the wind whistle through your hair.
"The ship was close enough to land
and reefs that would make the ordinary
person feel a bit anxious," he said.
The end of the first week saw
increased tempo and some more con-
fined pilotages through the Whitsunday
By this stage, the students were liv-
ing off minimal sleep and coffee, which
is all part of the training designed to test
skills under extreme pressure.
Newcastle returned to Cairns for the
weekend for a much-deserved break for
students, instructors and the ship's com-
The second week saw increased deg-
radation of ship systems and the added
pressure of HMAS Childers (Ardent
Four -- LCDR Brett Westcott) in com-
pany, while TAMW CAPT Leggatt was
present for assessments.
More complex pilotages were
conducted in the Whitsunday and
Cumberland Island groups and into
Shoal Water Bay Training Area for some
naval gunfire support training.
All students continued to perform
at a high standard despite the increas-
ing lack of sleep, but there was a light
at the end of the tunnel as Newcastle
headed towards Moreton Bay for final
With only a few pilotage runs
remaining, all students stepped up a gear
driving Newcastle and Childers through
the confines of Moreton Bay and the
outer Brisbane River with plans con-
structed at short notice.
Then on Friday morning, all that
hard work paid off as the proud gradu-
ates stood on Newcastle's flight deck
as Navigators -- one of the oldest and
proudest professions in the seafaring
LCDR Ben Hissink, OIC of the
Navigation Faculty, said that, without
the support of Newcastle and Childers,
the Navy would not be able to continue
to train for the critical warfare capabil-
ity given through the skills of Long N
"On behalf of TAMW, I thank them
for their invaluable support," he said.
The Long N Navigation course is a critical warfare
capability for the Navy to allow ships to operate in
company in the littoral environment while remaining
in radar and communications silence. Five Navigators
recently graduated from the mentally and physically
demanding course, which tested them to their limits.
LEUT Hugh Simpson reports.
CRITICAL SKILL: LEUT Calvin
Johnson takes a fix with a sextant.
Photo: LCDR Ben Hissink
Shannon Murray hard at
work on the chart.
Photo: LCDR Ben Hissink
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