Fifteen Navy personnel returned from Spain yesterday after completing a seven week course to learn how to drive and operate the Navy’s new Landing Craft Mechanical 1E (LCM1E). The Spanish Armada LCM1E School based in Cadiz ran the course for 11 members of NUSHIP Canberra along with external agency translators and future Australian Navy LCM1E Instructors.
The Navy’s two new Landing Helicopter Docks, of which Canberra will be the first, will each carry four LCM1Es which can be used to carry troops, equipment and supplies from ship to shore, or shore to ship. These landing craft can drive up on to the beach or shore, which is useful in areas that are inaccessible by other means.
A mix of Canberra Boatswains Mates and Marine Technicians attended the course, along with Canberra’s Dock Officer, Lieutenant Commander Michael Nipperess. The Boatswain’s Mates are converting their skills so they can become qualified “Coxswains’ (the person responsible for driving and operating the LCM1E), while the Marine Technicians are learning how to maintain the craft.
LCDR Nipperess said the course was a graduated learning experience, starting with classroom theory and culminating in a final assessment onboard the Spanish Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD), ESPS Juan Carlos.
“The first two weeks of training consisted of classroom theory, which included the basics of seamanship, navigation and communications as well as mechanical, electrical and hydraulic system overviews,” said Lieutenant Commander Nipperess.
Classroom theory also included stability, load plans, man overboard recoveries, and basic and advanced maneuvering of the LCM1E, including towing at sea and off the beach.
Lieutenant Commander Nipperess said the team was raring to get into the actual hands on driving of the LCM1E.
“Some participants were a bit apprehensive at first, however they gradually became acquainted with the power of the craft and soon had the LCM1E spinning on the spot and maneuvering sideways in close quarters with other craft and wharves.”
The course then progressed with more advanced maneuvering, including towing, beaching and ‘rafting up’ with other craft. Learning how to load and unload different types of cargo on and off the craft was also an important component.
“We also conducted a night navigational exercise around Cadiz Harbour to practice our knowledge and application of the “rules of the road” and the navigational system,” Lieutenant Commander Nipperess said.
“The final week our final assessment was conducted onboard Spanish LDH, ESPS Juan Carlos where course participants joined the LHD at sea for several days to conduct day and night LCM1E docking operations, incorporating all the training that had been covered over the previous weeks,” he said.
On the weekends, the contingent took the opportunity to visit surrounding regions and the local Cadiz area.
“We have taken the opportunity to conduct sightseeing adventures noting that the city of Cadiz is one of the oldest and most historic towns in Spain and there is plenty to see.
“We have also enjoyed some good clashes on the sporting field as well as a combined Spanish/Australian BBQ, where a large feast was laid out and enjoyed by all,” said Lieutenant Commander Nipperess.
“There have been many opportunities to foster the continuing friendships between our Navy and the Spanish Armada.
“Overall this has been a once in a life time career experience. To attend a course in Spain, which will see the introduction of a new capability into Australian Defence Force, is a privilege. And, all course members are extremely grateful,” he said.
Press Release, December 16, 2013; Image: Australian Navy