70 years of RAAF recruiting

Participants in this year’s first 1 Recruit Training Unit (1RTU) course were flown to the former recruit training base at Point Cook on March 6 for their graduation ceremony to mark the unit’s 70 years of recruit training.

CAPTION1 Recruit Training Unit celebrated 70 years with the first course graduates being flown to Point Cook for their graduation ceremony. Story by Sergeant Bickerton.

Planning is under way for graduates of two other recruit courses to be flown by C-130J Hercules to RAAF Bases Edinburgh and Richmond, where 1RTU once called home.

Military skills instructor Corporal Hannah Probyn said she was fortunate to have trained the first course to experience the commemorative graduation at the birthplace of Air Force; an event that friends and families of recruits travelled from across Australia to attend.

“Graduation is the culmination of all the time, energy and work both the recruits and instructors put in. It was a great turnout and an exciting and wonderful marking event for us all,” she said.

1RTU Commanding Officer Wing Commander David Borg graduated from 1RTU 32 years ago and is humbled by the opportunities Air Force has provided for his family.

“I also feel a deep sense of responsibility and pride in being entrusted with the stewardship of 1RTU and the development of Air Force’s newest aviators during its 70th year,” Wing Commander Borg said.

He remembered the simple things while training as a recruit when required to stay on base.

“Some of my mates and I would order takeaway pizzas and collect them from the front gate. We joked about the number of pizza slices we’d consume while walking back to our block,” he said.

“It became a playful measure of distance. We would say, ‘That was a five-slice walk’ or ‘a three-slice walk,’ depending on the number of slices we consumed.”

Since those days, recruit training has evolved from a peacetime geostrategic environment to one that requires aviators to adopt a warfighter mindset.

“When I completed my basic training, we spent a lot of time on drill and ceremonial aspects of training,” Wing Commander Borg said.

“The modern recruit now trains for combat behaviours, readiness and resilience.”

Today recruits experience extended field phases, training in field craft, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence, as well as the more traditional components.

1RTU Squadron Warrant Officer, Warrant Officer David Harding said the biggest shift he noticed since he enlisted in 1989 was the focus on values.

“They taught us rules without necessarily explaining the reasons behind them. ADF values teach the ‘why’ of the rules,” he said.

“Recruits now will understand who they are, why they are that and what the organisation is about.”

Corporal Probyn said she loved her time as a recruit, which played a significant role in her decision to apply for the instructor role.

She found the biggest challenge in recruit training was getting recruits to work effectively to achieve team outcomes.

“Seeing the transformation from week one to graduation, where they achieve that team cohesion, is most rewarding,” Corporal Probyn said.

Becoming a military skills instructor has helped Corporal Probyn grow professionally and personally, she said.

“Speaking to groups of 60 to 70 personnel and taking charge helps grow your self-confidence,” she said.

1RTU’s responsibilities have grown since it was established in 1954, starting with incorporating the women’s training unit in 1981.

The unit’s remit expanded to encompass military skills instructor training, RAAF Reserve training and, most recently, the Indigenous pre-recruit program.

The remaining commemorative graduation ceremonies at RAAF Bases Edinburgh and Richmond are scheduled for May 15 and August 7 respectively.


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