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Testing times for trainers
About 40 Sea Training Group assessors put HMAS Ballarat through its paces, LEUT Kelli Lunt reports.
ROLLOUT: Members of HMAS Ballarat take part in a damage control exercise
at the forward repair base on board Ballarat during the ship's unit readiness
Photos: ABIS Jesse Rhynard
ON TARGET: HMAS Ballarat fires the 5-inch gun during evaluation.
lead for the URE
(above) as LSCSO
of STG's Fleet Air
Safety Cell, observes
a simulated attack
against Ballarat from
the operations room.
I have no
of individuals of the
ship. I see it for what
it is on the day.
TOUGH love, long hours
and relentless travel char-
acterise the life of Sea
Training Group (STG)
personnel -- but so does passion,
patience, adaptability and subject
matter expertise, as observed during
HMAS Ballarat's Unit Readiness
Evaluation on July 29-30.
The 'green team' personnel
(wearing green brassards) are at sea
for a majority of their posting and
are tasked with the crucial role of
preparing ships' companies in a vari-
ety of skills, often amid competing
operational requirements, unpredict-
able weather and asset availability.
With roll call at 5:45am, STG
Major Fleet Units' trainers and
assessors boarded a bus at FHQ and
headed to Jervis Bay for the culmi-
nation of Ballarat's unusually short
three-week training package -- in
which crew handle taskings such as
boat handling, stores, conducting
engine breakdowns and expending
ammunition at a simulated enemy in
Captain Sea Training CAPT
Heath Robertson said STG worked
with Fleet personnel to achieve
set competencies determined by
COMAUSFLT, designing programs
and assessments specific to the asset
and their future taskings.
"STG provides the final layer
in the RAN's assurance process to
ensure the Fleet is well prepared
to fight and win at sea," CAPT
"With most of the Fleet on opera-
tions, or resetting and preparing
for them, STG's role of training
and assessing the RAN's men and
women to collectively fight and
operate their ships has never been
To be deemed 'unit ready', a
ship enters a period of pre-workup
training or 'shake downs' for which
the ship conducts internal training.
This is followed by a mariner skills
evaluation period and, on comple-
tion, the ship is then handed over to
STG for collective training, placing
the shared responsibility of training
between the ship and STG.
STG personnel have expertise in
their respective fields -- their experi-
ence, leadership and training style
provides crews with a combination
of training, mentoring and advising.
STG personnel earn their brassards
after a period of observation and
With ranks ranging from LS to
CAPT, about 40 STG assessors, with
more than half senior sailors and
warrant officers, attended Ballarat's
URE. Assessors were a blend of
STG trainers and Fleet personnel,
providing a fresh set of eyes.
CAPT Robertson was the head
assessor and was briefed on all
aspects of the ship's status before
the assessment period.
A quick boat transfer, an induc-
tion brief for new joiners and in less
than half an hour the assessment
period for Ballarat was under way.
The evaluation continued throughout
the night until late afternoon the
For those who managed to grab
a few hours sleep, arrangements
included the odd spare rack or
stretchers in the hangar.
The wardroom became STG
headquarters and a constant stream
of personnel rotated through report-
ing findings during serials, to docu-
menting collective training compe-
tency progression and achievement.
Fleet WOMT for frigate helicop-
ter WO Michael O'Callaghan was
on board Ballarat for the assessment
only. He has been in his role for 18
months and saw the evaluation as an
opportunity to gauge where the frig-
ate sat in the Fleet.
"Generally I have no precon-
ceived views of individuals of the
day," WO O'Callaghan said.
"After three weeks they have the
skills to pass the assessment, but
perhaps with not as much polish as
they would after five weeks or by a
mission readiness evaluation stand-
ard. But they're good enough."
Fleet WOMT for guided missile
frigate WO Anthony Booby said
there was a level of passion that was
required by ship's company and by
"Working in STG is good
because I get to see different plat-
forms and see different ways of
getting the standard required," WO
"STG needs to have a good
working relationship with the ship's
company. Attitude plays a big part
in the end result. If the crew doesn't
have the right attitude, then it can
be an uphill battle to get them to the
After reports were compiled,
CAPT Robertson briefed his team
and Finish Exercise was called. CO
Ballarat CMDR Matthew Doornbos
and his executive staff were then
briefed by CAPT Robertson, and a
clear lower deck was held for ship's
company on their collective per-
formance. For Ballarat, the results
were generally positive having
completed most competencies that
ships attempt in a normal five-week
The satisfaction of seeing
Ballarat achieve the necessary com-
petencies became a distant memory
for STG as they disembarked after
sunset with their bedding and pre-
pared to join their unit -- HMAS
-- WO Michael O'Callaghan
www.defence.gov.au/news/NAVYNEWS August 29, 2013
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