The Royal Australian Navy Recruit School at HMAS Cerberus, Victoria, is responsible for providing the Navy with trained, confident sailors that can think for themselves and work as a team.
Staff and instructors are in charge of training up to 450 recruits at one time, with a new intake of up to 150 recruits arriving from all over Australia every four weeks.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges faced have been wide-ranging. COVID-19 restrictions, lockdowns and border closures have threatened the ability to deliver the high-quality training that the school is well known for.
Commanding Officer RAN Recruit School Commander Cindy Jenkins said when changes are planned, they are usually trialled, discussed and then accepted before being rolled out.
“The challenges faced during the pandemic required instant action and fast decision-making, and as always, confidence and trust in our people,” Commander Jenkins said.
“Continued delivery of training without compromising learning outcomes demanded agility from the staff. Cohort distancing, restricted leave, mask-wearing, and most recently, 14-day self-quarantine on arrival, have meant a vastly different introduction to Navy life for the recruits.”
A five-day snap lockdown in early 2021 meant the recruit instructors had to conduct online instruction prior to the recruits arriving at the school. Instructors were conducting lessons with six classes of up to 25 recruits, all learning from home and achieving proficiencies while online. This included learning how to march, salute and how to do their hair.
Recruit instructor Leading Seaman Daniel Zimmerman said the ability to reach out to the new recruits before their arrival settled some nerves.
“The early engagement and online training broke the ice and allowed us to prepare the recruits for what was ahead,” Leading Seaman Zimmerman said.
The flexibility required to achieve training has highlighted opportunities for the future. A pre-enlistment program will be trialled in 2022 where new recruits will have the opportunity to engage with online content before they join, to better prepare them for their training and Navy life.
RAN Recruit School will also increase to 12 intakes of nine weeks’ duration in 2022. The overhauled recruit course will be named the New Entry Sailor Course and will include more blended instruction, incorporating increased online and self-paced learning.
The agility, innovation and resilience of RAN Recruit School staff and instructors has not gone unnoticed. The continued induction of sailors into the Navy despite the global pandemic has earned the school a nomination for the Australian Institute of Training and Development Award, winners of which will be announced in November.
While the pandemic has certainly presented many challenges, RAN Recruit School has embraced the opportunities to modernise and improve recruit training and looks forward to continuing to shape the future of Navy in 2022.