HMAS Choules, the newest ship in the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet, is currently conducting a training exercise, Exercise Squadex 2012, with Army elements from the 3rd Brigade, 10th Force Support Battalion and 5th Aviation Regiment in Townsville.
Exercise Squadex 2012 aims to develop the enhanced amphibious capacity of the Australian Defence Force as the transition into the Canberra Class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) vessel occurs.
So far, the focus has been training drivers of water and land vehicles alike to board and disembark the ship, along with aviation assets trialling the vessel as a landing pad.
The training exercise is proving to be invaluable as Army and Navy personnel familiarise themselves with HMAS Choules and working with each other.
“This is my first time ever on an amphibious ship. It’s a totally new experience and although I never thought I would be going to sea when I joined the Army, I’m OK about it, it’s quite exciting to be one of the first to be on HMAS Choules,” Sapper Jono Channing from 3rd Brigade said.
Trooper Clinton Davis, also from 3rd Brigade, says that working closely with the Royal Australian Navy has been a new experience, but a good one.
“Choules is a modern ship, she looks like nothing I have ever seen before. The sailors onboard are very friendly and happy to welcome us. We’ve been getting lost at every turn and everyone onboard, no matter their rank, is happy to point us in the right direction,” Trooper Davis said.
Qualifying LCM8 drivers, as well as transport drivers from the 3rd Brigade, have been the early focus of Exercise Squadex 2012, which will transition to Exercise Sea lion 2012 next week.
Personnel from 35 Water Transport Squadron have also demonstrated their capability with successful embarking and deployment evolutions using the Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo (LARC).
While amphibious operations are ongoing, on the flight deck Black Hawk pilots from the 5th Aviation Regiment have been busy confirming their deck landing qualifications.
HMAS Choules is 176 metre long and crewed by 158 officers and sailors, including a permanently embarked Ships Army Department of 22. The ship can accommodate two large helicopters, 150 light trucks and up to 350 troops.
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