The Northern Territory Emergency Service has played host to members from the Defence Indigenous Development Program (DIDP) as part of their training for acceptance into the full time Australian Defence Force.
Exercise Paratus was held over the weekend of 4-5 July at various locations across Darwin.
The 30 participants from the Indigenous Development Program were given hands on experience working with NTES teams to develop their skills and gain an understanding of the roles and responsibilities of being part of an Emergency Service.
The two day course saw the recruits take part in an urban search and rescue with casualty recovery, a land search exercise, four-wheel drive recovery and a marine search on Darwin Harbour.
Major Marty Alsford, Officer in Charge of the DIDP, said the 30 potential recruits were part of a program to encourage indigenous youth who are considering a full time career in the Australian Defence Force.
“All participants in this program have expressed an interest in a full time Defence career. Currently, they are not able to meet some of our entry standards and that is where this course comes in.
“We fully believe that they can meet those standards and their shortfalls can be overcome.”
Major Alsford said the shortfalls could be physical or academic and this course was designed to challenge them to meet the standards.
“Out of 179 applicants from all over Australia, this group was assessed to have the most potential to succeed and go on to a full time career in the Army, Air Force or Navy.
“The five month course, based in the Top End town of Batchelor and part of Norforce, is designed to give the young potential recruits the skills and confidence they will need to begin their career.
“During the five months they will wear the uniform, engage in physical training every morning, be exposed to basic military discipline and, along the way, engage in a whole range of activities to build their skills, resilience, self-esteem and confidence.”
Major Alsford said this is where NTES was the perfect fit.
“The Emergency Service conducts operations in a military manner as far as planning and organisation go. Many of their volunteers have a military or policing background and all of them have a desire to improve their own skills, while contributing to the safety of their community.
“We very much appreciate the opportunity to work with the NTES and give our recruits exposure to some very practical skills in a dedicated team environment.”
Senior Education and Development Officer for NTES, Mark Cunnington, said the Emergency Service jumped at the chance to assist in the training.
“We saw immediate benefits in conducting this operation with Defence. NTES is a community based organisation that is mostly driven by our volunteers and to have the chance to showcase what we do with a group of Australian youths who themselves are showing the drive and dedication to further themselves. It seemed like a good match.”
Mr Cunnington said the group were exposed to several scenarios where their teamwork and problem solving skills were put to the test.
“We were aiming to provide them with something outside of the normal box, something a little different to the normal tempo of military training.
“However, in line with what we do, stressing the importance of teamwork and safety.”
During the urban search and rescue component the recruits joined experienced NTES personnel in conducting a line and hail search. In a collapsed building scenario rescuers will form a line and slowly move over the rubble in formation, hailing and searching for survivors at regular intervals. This scenario also requires the rescuers to wait for any replies, to maintain a disciplined line and to be aware of each other’s location and safety at all times.
The recruits were also required to locate, triage, prepare and carry out a casualty.
The land search exercise gave the recruits an introduction to conducting a search, often through inhospitable terrain, for either items or missing persons. These searches also rely on personnel working closely together as a team in various formations depending on the nature of the search.
The recovery of a 4 x 4 vehicle was both a practical and problem solving exercise involving recovery equipment and a bogged vehicle.
The marine search and small craft handling on Darwin Harbour and the Elizabeth River gave the recruits an introduction in conducting a water based search and some practical experience in handling a boat.
The exercise even had a moment of reality when a fisherman’s boat broke down on the river. The fisho was delighted to be towed by a whole boatload of NTES and camouflage- wearing rescuers.
The cadets also were happy with an impromptu lesson in how to deploy a tow line.
Mark Cunnington said the exercise was worthwhile and of benefit to both the trainers and trainees.
“We will often conduct training for different groups for a variety of reasons. Youth groups, open days and our own volunteers all benefit from learning new skills or developing existing ones.
"Our trainers also get the benefit of honing their own skills and communication techniques as they adapt to the different requirements and skill levels of their trainees.
"Hopefully, this group has experienced enough these past two days that they will recommend joining a State Emergency Service to their friends and family back home.”
Major Marty Alsford said that by the end of the five month course he believed the potential recruits will realise their dream to work full-time in the military.
“If things don’t turn out, it is not the end. We will continue to assist them to find a suitable job. Thanks to the time they have spent over the past few days learning some new skills and experiencing working in a close team environment, I imagine that could even be as a State Emergency Service Volunteer back in their hometown.”
Andrew Warton, the Director of the Northern Territory Emergency Service, said the exercise had provided a unique opportunity for NTES and the Australian Defence Force to forge a new partnership.
“Emergency management is most effective when the community and organisations work together. I thank all those involved for a truly professional effort and the results are self-evident.
“I believe that, for the participants, volunteering in their local Emergency Service is now a very real possibility.”