As the sun sets on Exercise SEA DAWN this month, the ship’s company of HMAS Choules reflected on the important milestones they helped the Australian Defence Force (ADF) achieve in training for amphibious operations.
From 24 March, around 450 people from all three Services conducted helicopter, boat and vehicle operations, casualty response and recovery serials, landed forces ashore, tested communications and reaffirmed command arrangements.
Commanding Officer of Choules, Commander Ashley Papp, said he was incredibly proud of the professionalism and hard work of all.
“As the ADF works towards an enhanced, amphibious capability, exercises like SEA DAWN provide valuable training in the skills necessary for the complex and demanding amphibious environment.”
“A joint amphibious capability is a key part of future ADF military operations, along with the capability to conduct Humanitarian and Disaster Relief.”
“It has been really great to see the enthusiasm with which our joint teams have taken on this training, knowing it can be used for real in both in Australia and around the world,” said CMDR Papp.
The exercise was paused for a few days due to Tropical Cyclone Ita, as the Amphibious Ready Element was made instantly available to support possible civilian emergency demands in the Cooktown region.
“This shows the flexibility to re-role from exercise to real world at a moment’s notice, and position far from larger infrastructure bases to be poised to conduct a wide range of tasks by sea, ground and air.”
“At the end of the day, this is why this training is so valuable,” said CMDR Papp.
Participating Army assets included The 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR) as the core of the Amphibious Ready Element, supported by elements of the Army’s 3rd, 6th, 16th and 17th Brigades. Army Blackhawk and MRH-90 helicopters, helicopters also joined the exercise.
Navy and Air Force participants included Australian Clearance Diving Team One, the Maritime Operational Health Unit and a C-130 Hercules and Choules.
Life was flat out onboard the Landing Ship Dock Choules during the exercise with all departments involved in mission success, from the Communicators who gave constant flag signals and created many new fleet accounts, to those in the engineering world kept the ship functioning and safe 24/7.
It was all hands on deck in the Executive Department with complicated ship handling, working lines, small arms firings off the side of the ship, opening the dock to launch or recover boats and providing hundreds people with briefs on safety equipment.
Able Seaman, Blake Titterton, a Chef onboard, said the logistics team fed over 400 people.
“The galley was really busy, we served 1500 meals a day, to three different messes onboard, and the Army guys commented that they loved the hot food and the different dessert options.”
Combat Systems Operator, Able Seaman Nicholas Juner, said the Flight Deck Crew conducted a large number of flying operations – launching and recovering an Army Blackhawk or MRH90 flight nearly every day.
“Working with joint aircraft was challenging and an important part of what Choules can do,” said AB Juner.
The exercise culminated with a very realistic scenario where an amphibious ship-to-shore assault was simulated in Halifax Bay and Cowley Beach Training Areas.
Exercise SEA DAWN continued to hone amphibious procedures for the ADF’s transition to a true expeditionary capability with the arrival of the 27,000-ton Canberra Class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD), NUSHIP Canberra, scheduled to enter service later this year.
Press Release, April 17, 2014; Image: Royal Australian Navy