Minehunter crews learn on the job

Officers and sailors onboard minehunter Coastals HMA Ships Huon and Gascoyne have brushed up on CBRN – Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear defence. Ship’s companies undertook a week of dedicated training at the Navy’s School of Survivability and Ship Safety before both ships proceeded to sea for further training.

With the Sea Training Group (STG) embarked, Huon sailed off southern New South Wales coast for a week of damage control, seamanship, and ship survivability training and assessment. Despite a large proportion of crew change out at the end of 2017, including a change in command, Huon performed time and time again, demonstrating a willingness to learn and engage with the instructors and assessors constructively to ultimately increase the performance of the ships capabilities.

One of the main goals for STG whilst on board for the week was to certify Huon to conduct Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) defence whilst at sea, something rarely done on a Minehunter. This process involved several table top discussions and practical staff exercises covered training scenarios alongside and the constant refining of procedures.

Although not originally intended to operate in a CBRN environment, personnel onboard Huon developed some innovative ideas and were able to demonstrate a credible system of pre-wet, an effective cleansing and monitoring organization and emergency procedures for recovering crew inside the ship in a controlled manner.

According to Lieutenant Commander Alan Parton, Commanding Officer HMAS Huon, the high tempo resulted in a fast paced week and a steep learning curve for all involved.

“We benefitted from learning the smallest of tasks, such as donning CBRN suits, to the writing and issuing of our standard procedures.

“What we have accomplished in this intense training period is a demonstrated capability that will enable Huon and Gascoyne to withdraw safely, and tactically, from a CBRN threat environment to a position where there is no longer an immediate threat to the ship and crew.

“We are lucky in Huon to have personnel who have actually experienced this type of event in previous theatres of operation and Chief Petty Officer Clearance Diver Shaun Elliott who has a great deal of experience as an instructor in CBRN.”