COVID turns gap year into awesome learning opportunity

Working with a small group of specialist reserve entry trainee officers has been an unexpected career highlight for midshipmen Ryan Rafferty and Rebecca Wright.

CAPTION: Navy Gap Year trainees Midshipman Ryan Rafferty and Midshipman Rebecca Wright at the Royal Australian Naval College HMAS Creswell in Jervis Bay, NSW. Story by Lieutenant Amy Johnson.

Both Navy Gap Year trainees had expected to spend the year finishing training, touring military bases and completing a short posting until COVID-19 intervened.

Unable to travel to their posting locations, the two junior officers were asked to mentor a group of 15 specialist entry reservists arriving at the Royal Australian Naval College at HMAS Creswell in Jervis Bay for their initial employment training.

The reservists held specialist civilian skills in a variety of areas, including nursing, chaplaincy and law.

“I was a bit nervous at first about working with the reservists,” Midshipman Wright said.

“I wanted to share my love of Navy and the skills I’d learnt in my initial training, but I was aware of their vast professional and life experiences.”

Their differences in age and experience proved not be a limiting factor. Both the new reservists and the midshipmen were Navy’s youngest in age and youngest in experience, so they had a unique opportunity to learn from each other.

“It was a different and even better opportunity than I’d planned for,” Midshipman Rafferty said.

“The goal of the gap year program is to broaden your knowledge and experience. Working with the reservists gave me this.

“They taught me a lot about networking and building a professional career.”

The two officers worked with the reservists on the topics of Navy familiarisation and kit maintenance, as well as assisted with course and practical leadership training, which was a highlight.

“Assisting the practical leadership team was excellent. It allowed me to see the challenges from both the trainee and staff aspects,” Midshipman Rafferty said.

“It’s a perspective you miss when you are participating in the exercises yourself.

“The Gap Year Entry Cell have not stopped working hard to give us experiences, even through some tough restrictions.”

The Navy Gap Year program is a 12-month course for officers and sailors of the ages 18-24 to experience multiple aspects of military life and career opportunities.





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