DRIZZLE and strong winds did not deter 38 brand new officers from pushing their limits during Exercise Wirraway at Buchan, Victoria from 5-6 June.
The exercise aims to build student’s resilience and confidence through navigation, abseiling, climbing and caving training and is the first field exercise of the 17-week-long Initial Officer Course (IOC) conducted by the Officers’ Training School (OTS).
Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Jacob Crack, Directing Staff and Officer-In-Charge of Adventure Training from OTS said Exercise Wirraway created a perceived high risk and high pressure environment, which puts students out of their comfort zone.
“Most students experience stress and difficult situations from a military perspective for the first time during Exercise Wirraway,” FLTLT Crack said.
“The challenging environment can heighten students’ stress levels to the point that their communication and teamwork abilities degrade - sometimes mild panic can set in and their emotions are seriously challenged.”
FLTLT Crack said the instructors use these mental and physical responses to further develop the students’ emotional intelligence, self-mastery and courage.
“We encourage students to explore how they can work better as a team and communicate more effectively when they are under stress.
“We conclude each activity with a facilitated debrief on site to draw out personal experiences and relate them back to the work place and broader life.
“Most students come out of the exercise as better operators and better leaders overall."
FLTLT Crack said being on Directing Staff at OTS was a fulfilling and rewarding experience.
“Each student is unique and as instructors we need to adapt different teaching strategies to maximise their potential. This involves tailoring our demeanour and style to each student and holding a great deal of empathy for everyone.
“I understand that the students we put through OTS will be my peers 14 weeks after Exercise Wirraway and seeing them grow in resilience and confidence is a fantastic thing!
“It is an absolute honour to be able to shape and mould future Air Force leaders."
Officer Cadet (OFFCDT) Brittney McCreesh, an Intelligence Officer trainee recalled the challenges and benefits of the exercise.
“Exercise Wirraway was one of the first opportunities where we were able to see how everyone responds to certain difficult situations, while being able to leverage each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” OFFCDT McCreesh said.
“We spent more than 10 hours in a cave, sometimes for long lengths of time navigating through extremely tight spaces with no light or noise.
"This challenge was overcome by coming together as a team and relying on our instincts and training.
“The abseiling activity is also a wonderful tool to prepare individuals for their military careers.
“The highlights of this exercise would definitely be the strong bond and camaraderie that we formed after we completed these tasks as a team.
"The trust we developed in each other over such short period of time would be difficult to achieve in a classroom."
Wing Commander (WGCDR) Daniel Cassilles, Commanding Officer of OTS, praised his staff for carrying out another successful training exercise.
“The unit is extremely lucky to have a team of highly credible and capable personnel as instructors,” WGCDR Cassilles said.
“At OTS we acknowledge that instructors are not just subject matter experts, they are also leaders, mentors, coaches and facilitators.
"We recognise that instructors play a critical role in developing Air Force’s future workforce and so they must have the right aptitude and ability for the role.
“In line with Air Force directions, OTS places extremely high value on learning and recognises the importance of the instructional roles.”
In accordance with Chief of Air Force Intent for Learning in A Fifth Generation Air Force, the successful completion of a posting to an educational or training organisation will be regarded as a positive discriminator during posting and promotion deliberations.