Adventurous Training Wing (ATW) – The year in review (2017)

ATW has continued with its high tempo delivery of adventurous training courses throughout 2017, training leaders and instructors to deliver high quality resilience and leadership training to soldiers and officers within the Australian Defence Force. The team has also synchronised efforts and capitalised on opportunities to support 1 RTB through Military Facilitation Courses, local cadet units with adventurous training activities on weekends and CPL Matthew Brooks lead an excellent activity in support of the Somali Community Leadership Development Program. In addition to their valuable and dedicated support to courses, our team of reservists at ATW rallied to deliver Exercise Kowari, an international adventurous training activity that saw Chinese, US and Australian soldiers improve interoperability.

After a year as Officer Commanding of ATW what has pleased me most is the drive of my people to continuously improve not only the processes and product that we provide, instigated by MAJ Mick Sheehan and WO2 Haining in the policy cell, but to also improve themselves as instructors, leaders and people.

The introduction of contracted support to ATW has seen high quality instructional, logistics and operations support, underpinned by Mr Cory Fiske and Ms Andrea Tyrrell, to enable all courses and activities that ATW has conducted. Whilst these members and the whole operations team ensure that we get to the start line, I am also aware that the quality of the training we provide is dependant on the quality of our uniformed and contracted instructors.

From cliffs, caves and canyons, to white water rivers, the ocean and the alpine regions, our courses teach people to operate in environments of perceived and real risk, to manage stress and fear and to then be able to facilitate others to cope, adapt and thrive with this same pressure in preparation for service life and operations. To be able to successfully teach, coach and facilitate people in these environments takes skill and patience; but most importantly understanding the situation that individuals are in, and empathising with the thoughts, emotions and reactions that they incur.

I am fortunate to lead an inspiring and motivated group of people that have recognised this. Despite ATW’s demanding course schedule, these people have come to me with opportunities for professional development. This has been noted most recently through the great work CPL Luke Robertson has done to prepare and enter ATW teams in the Snowy River Extreme Race. This is a White Water Kayaking race conducted on not only a very difficult and confronting river, but also one that reminds me of a post rugby game ice bath. It was not cold; winter mornings in Wagga are cold. This was freezing to the point of causing physical pain to any exposed body part that was unfortunate enough to meet the water. I saw my instructors who normally operate well within their comfort zone on courses and activities, facing anxiety and hesitation before entering the water. They showed a genuine fear towards the river, a sense of uncertainty in their ability and skills, and a feeling of once again reaching peak adventure. This activity tested their skills and stress management; however it was evident when they fell back on their training, as hesitation was quickly replaced with a drive to succeed. What had been a usual chirp and jocularity of an evening was sobered by the impact of fear-induced adrenalin, complimented with the quiet reflection of accomplishment.

I continue to be inundated with proposals for new initiatives for both professional development and the adventurous training capability. In November this year, both will be combined when ATW will conduct a nine-day adventurous training activity for wounded, injured and ill veterans. This is an activity outside the norm that has been designed by CPL Oliver Schulz to test and develop instructors, and enables a great opportunity for the employment of Adventurous Training.

I am proud of what ATW has been able to achieve this year. I am incredibly thankful for the support of the whole team and that of the families that support them during what is a demanding but rewarding posting.  I am genuinely excited to watch my team continue to develop in 2018, implement new and robust courses and activities, and continue to develop members of the ADF by enabling the provision of high quality and professional adventurous training.