The Australian Army’s 2nd Division is making training more accommodating in an effort to streamline recruit trining.
CAPTION: Australian Army soldier Private Paula Pires, from 4th/3rd Battalion, Royal New South Wales Regiment, during Exercise Waratah Run at Singleton, NSW. Story and photo by Corporal Jacob Joseph.
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Carter, Headquarters 2nd Division, said training needed to be flexible to reduce the recruit and ab-initio training attrition rate, which historically resulted in as many as 40 per cent of people not completing their training.
He said the role of the 2nd Division had evolved considerably in recent years and the Defence Strategic Review (DSR) reinforced its “clarity of purpose”.
Army senior leadership recently approved changes to the Army SERCAT [service category] 5 Initial Foundation Training Continuum to address the attrition rate, including reducing the five-week 1st Recruit Training Battalion recruit course to three weeks for all SERCAT 5 general entry soldiers.
Lieutenant Colonel Carter said training must provide the “agility and scalability” to support the workforce and enable 2nd Division preparedness for domestic and homeland security operations.
“We’ve created shorter training blocks, put flexibility into the system for people to off-ramp at certain points, and take ownership of their individual training through use of the electronic Competency Management Tool, which is current being trialled,” Lieutenant Colonel Carter said.
Once soldiers complete recruit training, they could be immediately deployed on domestic support operations like COVID-19 Assist, and to support flood and fire events.
Combat corps then complete a two-week land-combat module which gives them the skills they need to deploy on homeland security operations.
In the future, trade initial employment training should be modulated, exportable and completed under on-the-job conditions as much as practicable, supported by the electronic Competency Management Tool, which will give ownership of training progression to the individual soldier.
“They can then say to their section commander, ‘when are we next going to throw grenades or do section attacks? Because I want to come along and learn those skills and satisfy that proficiency’,” Lieutenant Colonel Carter said.
“The standard SERCAT 5 soldier doesn’t have the time to do five weeks and then another three weeks, and then another three weeks residential training – their employers won’t release them for such a long time, on top of the family pressures that many people are also trying to balance.
“We have a collection of amazing people contributing to our workforce and we’re making it easier for them to serve because we’re getting smarter about how we enable their training.”
One such person is Private Paula Pires, the daughter of a Brazilian paratrooper, who you could say prepared for Kapooka her whole life.
“Growing up, I hated the military,” Private Pires said.
“Every weekend, Dad would flip our rooms upside down and make us reorganise everything.
“Then I went to Kapooka and it made me feel like I was home — I loved it.”
While Kapooka makes some question their choices, the infantry reservist went the other way and asked to go full-time.
Instead, she was offered a position in the Reserve Accelerated Training Scheme (RATS), a program that can take a reservist from recruit school to private proficient in six months, and provide a lived experience that complements their training.
It’s a process that usually takes years.
Next month, Private Pires and 21 others will be the first to finish at the 4th/3rd Battalion, Royal New South Wales Regiment.
While it may be easier than ever for people juggling civilian life and service, soldiers like Private Pires are going all in.
But when you grow up in a military family with a chin-up bar in your room, it was likely a foregone conclusion.
“I thought it would be a great idea to do RATS for six months to see whether I like full-time Army life,” Private Pires said.
“I was recently accepted for another CFTS (continuous full-time service) contract for six months.
“Once that ends, I’m going to transfer to ARA (Australian regular army).”