Recruit School Weekly Activities

Recruits join the Royal Australian Navy in monthly General Entry (GE) Intakes. These Intakes are then placed into one of four Divisions that are named after significant figures that have served as enlisted members of the RAN:

A Division is a collection of personnel placed together for the purpose of administration and training, commanded by a Divisional Officer in Charge. Within each Division, recruits are placed into classes of no more than 25 Recruits, under the day to day direction and instruction of a qualified Recruit School Instructor.

A brief outline of the course (which is generic to all Recruit Intakes) is as follows:

Course Content

Recruits undertake a significant number of training modules and participate in a wide variety of activities throughout the 10 week New Entry Sailor Course. The 10 week course is best described in three phases:

  • Phase 1 – covers weeks 1 to 4 (internal at Recruit School)
  • Phase 2 – covers weeks 5 to 8 (external to Recruit School)
  • Phase 3 – covers weeks 9 & 10 (internal at Recruit School).

Throughout the entire 10 week course, Recruits will participate in Character Formation and Mess Relationship instruction which is conducted by the Recruit School Chaplain. These two modules are very important as all members of the Navy team need to understand the importance of maintaining good order and discipline, while living and working in close quarters. For many Recruits it is their first experience of living in a communal environment to which most Recruits adapt very quickly.

Phase 1 - Week 1

In Weeks 1 to 4 Recruits embark on a steep learning curve as they adjust to their new environment and routines of military life. This phase begins on day one with enlistment and travel to HMAS Cerberus, when they arrive at Recruit School, perhaps a little apprehensive, but ready for the challenges ahead. The first full day at Recruit School can be a shock for many as the day commences at 5:00am with being introduced to their Instructors and Divisional staff and it is non-stop from there. As Week 1 progresses, Recruits undertake a wide variety of indoctrination activities and briefings, such as Work Health and Safety, Fire Safety, Australian Defence Force Values, Ethos, Environmental Awareness, Living in Communal Harmony, Pay and Entitlements, Equity and Diversity, Psychological Support Services, Study Skills, and Lifestyle. Some important activities undertaken in week one include, swim testing, uniform sizing, haircuts, and marching practice just to name a few. Recruits change from wearing civilian clothing to the RAN issue track suit, and then by the end of the week they commence wearing Maritime Multi-Purpose Uniform (MMPU - the RAN's working uniform). It is normal for some Recruits to experience homesickness in the initial stages of their training. Recruit School staff are well informed on how to support and assist Recruits in this regard. Parents, relatives and friends can be of significant assistance in this area with words of support and encouragement.

Phase 1 - Week 2

In Week 2 Recruits continue theory classes where they learn more basic information about life in the Navy. Some examples include modules on Navy Organisation, Culture, Traditions, Ceremonies and Illegal Drug Awareness. Physical Training (referred to as PT) also forms a regular part of the training program which is aimed at teaching basic movements, learning words of command, improving fitness, and developing teamwork and confidence. During the week Recruits continue to practice and improve their marching technique as well as their general transition into the military life. Week 2 also includes their first major challenges - 'Shakedown' and the RAN physical fitness test.

'Shakedown' is a Navy reference to a series of basic evolutions that an Australian Warship will undertake after a prolonged maintenance period. It is aimed at putting a ship's crew through a series of routine situations that could occur while at sea.

At Recruit School, 'Shakedown' is designed to give the Recruits their first physical challenge. 'Shakedown' is a full day activity that requires Recruits to complete a series of predominantly physical activities to instil resilience, teamwork, leadership, communication and initiative. The primary emphasis is on teamwork and Recruits quickly learn that the most effective way to succeed is to work together and support each other through the various evolutions. The day commences with the Recruits first attempt at the RAN Physical Fitness Test (RANPFT). Recruits who do not achieve a pass standard in this test will receive additional Physical Training prior to their first official RANPFT. Activities undertaken throughout the day include a series of team building exercises, gym induction and an arduous PT session with a berthing hawser (thick & heavy rope).

Phase 1 - Week 3

The issue of uniforms presents a variety of new challenges for Recruits, particularly in the areas of 'kit' (uniform) maintenance, which is expected to be of the highest standard. Much time is spent washing, ironing, folding and naming kit items, which Recruits then stow (put away neatly) in their lockers. They are also introduced to 'Locker Inspections' during week three, the aim of which is to ensure that 'kit' items are correctly laundered, ironed, folded and stowed as outline in the Recruit Kit Maintenance Manual.

An important lesson for the Recruits is the military method of presenting their kit for inspection. Service kit inspections are generally performed at random in order to confirm and ensure a sailor has a full set of uniforms and that they have been maintaining it to a good state of repair. Service kit inspections are also issued as a means of Corrective Training to assist a sailor in perfecting the fundamental skills required to maintain their uniform and importantly, wear it with pride.

The training tempo remains high throughout the period and modules typically undertaken in week 3 include, Goal Setting and Motivation, Alcohol Awareness and Education, Character Formation - Conflict, Competency Management, ADF Security, Inoculations and Class Photographs are taken. Week 3 also sees the continuation of paperwork for Passport and security clearance applications. It is extremely important that this paperwork is submitted by the completion of week 4 as it can affect future training, including Initial Category Course. The assistance of family to expedite the process and forward relevant documents is always greatly appreciated.

A challenging aspect of week 3 includes completion of the HMAS Cerberus Higher Ropes Course. This is an exciting half-day activity that is designed to encourage the further development of resilience, teamwork, trust, communication and compliance to safety instructions. Working 10 metres above the ground, Recruits negotiate numerous challenges incorporated in the course, under the strict control and direction of qualified High Ropes Course Instructors. While it takes most out of their comfort zone, Recruits generally find the experience exhilarating and gain a great sense of achievement and self-confidence out of the day. Once again, Recruits need to work together and support each other in order to achieve their goals.

Phase 1 - Week 4

Week 4 maintains the high training tempo with outcomes designed to achieve steady improvement in teamwork and increased understanding of Recruit School routines, culture and ethos.

The Unit Readiness Evaluation (URE) is the next milestone event, and is conducted at the start of week 4. The URE tests the core skills that Recruits have been taught throughout their training to date, namely resilience, teamwork, time management, communal harmony, leadership and communication.

At sea the purpose of the URE is to achieve the appropriate level of readiness prior to Operational Deployment. In order to pass URE the ship must first demonstrate that it is capable of fighting in the warfare environment and able to control any subsequent damage control incidents. Once all these competencies have been completed the ship will then be evaluated during a 48 hour 'Warfare Scenario' where all competencies will be formally assessed to the limit.

URE commences with the Recruits first assessed RANPFT. Activities conducted during the Recruit School URE include an endurance circuit, a survival activity in the pool, and a sandpit team building exercise followed by a whole division physical activity in the afternoon. The URE brings together the skills that Recruits have learnt in their first 4 weeks. The following day after URE is the Executive Officer's (XO) Rounds. This is the first of three major inspections conducted by the Recruit School Command Team. For these rounds the Recruit School XO inspects the cleanliness of the accommodation block ablutions, block foyer, cabins, bunks, uniforms, and the state of each Recruit's locker. Recruits are required to put many hours of hard work and effort into ensuring all these areas are of the highest standard. Further, this is an important milestone in their training as it marks their transition from the Junior Class at Recruit School to the Intermediate Class.

Phase 2 - Weeks 5-8

The Division is now at the intermediate stage of training. More responsibility is placed upon the Recruits and there is an expectation that they will set a good example for the incoming Recruits of the Junior Division. The standards of performance and conduct are gradually raised and maintained in Phase Two. This increase in standards occurs progressively, but even at this stage of the induction training there is a noticeable difference in the Recruits. From this point of training the more important components commence.

Weeks 5-8 is the commencement of their outside instruction, which includes:

  • First Aid – (2 days) This is an important part of the Recruit training as all sailors and officers in the RAN must be capable of administering basic first aid during emergencies or otherwise called for situations.
  • Survival at Sea – (2 days) Survival at Sea training delivers important instruction on various survival techniques. On completion of this module of training the Recruits will have the knowledge and skills necessary to operate lifesaving equipment and an understanding of the practices and procedures in place on RAN ships. The instruction includes lessons on the proper use of personal protection equipment including lifejackets and thermal protection suits. As part of the first day's instruction Recruits undertake a theory exam, which they must pass, before they are permitted to undertake the practical session on day two. The practical phase sees Recruits undertake a variety of exercises which include wearing (donning) a thermal protection suit, execute a safe water entry from a height of 6m, launch a life raft, and practice survival at sea techniques which include rapid ship evacuation and recovery from the water.
  • Corrosion Control – (2 days) Due to the unique working environment, all sailors require training in how to preserve the assets of the RAN and maintain them in good working order. Safety, as in all components of training, is paramount. The Recruits are taught how to properly use maintenance equipment and personal protective equipment.
  • Weapons Training – (10 days) Weapons training commences with a comprehensive safety brief being the first order of the day. Recruits are taught over a 10 day period (spread over two to three weeks), how to safely operate the EF88 Austeyr rifle in the training and operational environment. Recruits must demonstrate that they understand the safe operation, working parts and weapon firing drills. After passing a practical assessment with the EF88 Austeyr rifle, recruits will move on to the next stage of weapons training. During this stage the recruits will conduct a qualifying live firing practise at Williams Rifle range, HMAS Cerberus. In this practice the recruits will fire 10 live rounds at a designated target. For the majority of Recruits this training is their first experience of weapon handling but by the end of their training on the EF88, Recruits are familiar and confident. Weapon training is safety focused and the instruction is given by highly qualified weapons specialists. On completion of the qualification shoot Recruits will be taught basic marksmanship skills and then zero a rifle utilising the Weapons Training Simulator System located at HMAS Cerberus. The WTSS is a computerised simulation of the EF88 Austeyr rifle. Once these skills have been mastered at the WTSS recruits will zero a rifle on a live firing range. At this stage Recruits are taught how to fire from various positions (e.g. while lying on the ground and in the kneeling position). Once this is mastered they undertake further practice at the Weapons Training Simulator System prior to conducting final live fire drills and assessments at the Rifle Range.

Phase 3 - Week 9

In week 9 is 'Day 50' is reached for the Recruits. Day 50 presents the opportunity for Recruits to elect to discharge from the Navy if they choose to do so. It is every Recruit's right to exercise this option with no questions asked; some simply decide that it is not the career they wish to pursue. Historically very few Recruits exercise their right to take the Day 50 optional discharge; most go on to enjoy rewarding careers in the RAN.

Week 9 sees Recruits further consolidate their drill and marching techniques in preparation for their final drill exam. Week 9 is also when Recruits commence the two-day evolution known as their Mission Readiness Evaluation (MRE) and is one of the final hurdles for the Recruits.

At sea the purpose of the MRE is to achieve the appropriate level of readiness prior to Operational Deployment. In order to pass MRE the ship must first demonstrate that it is capable of fighting in the warfare environment and able to control any subsequent damage control incidents. Once all these competences have been completed the ship will then be evaluated during a 48 hour 'Warfare Scenario' where all competencies will be formally assessed to the limit.

The Recruit School MRE tests the core skills that Recruits have been taught throughout their training, namely; resilience, teamwork, time management, communal harmony, leadership and communication. The first day of MRE is a Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) scenario where activities include; a tent build, aquatic endurance circuit, a scenario based circuit within the sand pit and a physical endurance activity. The day culminates with a 7km run as classes go through their paces at the infamous HMAS Cerberus Mud Run.

The second day in MRE is dedicated to formal Commanding Officer's rounds. To prepare for this, the Recruits must clean and tidy their accommodation block and cabins to an immaculate standard. Recruits are required to wear their ceremonial uniform for the occasion. This is followed by Commanding Officer’s Parade where Recruits will demonstrate their drill and marching abilities.  

Phase 3 - Week 10

In the final week at Recruit School the main focus is on one goal: the Graduation Parade, which takes place on Friday of week 10 (with the exception of a Thursday Night Graduation for the final divisions of the year. This also includes a Ceremonial Sunset piece, another fine and long standing tradition within the RAN). To achieve this, armed drill and specific marching drills are taught throughout the week to ensure Recruits are well prepared for the events on Graduation Day. In the evenings throughout Week 10, Recruits concentrate on uniform maintenance and boot polishing to ensure they are immaculately turned out on the day. Dress and bearing must be of the highest order.

On Graduation Day, six awards are presented, namely Recruit of the Intake, Academic Recruit of the Intake, Top Shot of the Intake, Leadership Potential Award, Sportsperson of the Intake, and the Warrant Officer of the Navy Excellence Award. These awards recognise the unique skill and attitudes displayed by the recipients.

The Graduation Parade is a highlight of the 10 week training program and formally recognises all the hard work and effort put in by Recruits and staff over their 10 week journey. Through hard work and application, graduating Recruits have proven they are worthy to progress to the next phase of their training. Family and friends often marvel at the changes their loved ones have made in such a short time. Graduation day is very special for all those involved, and family and friends travel from far and wide to be part of this very important occasion.

On graduation Recruits are formally recognised as 'Sailors' in the RAN and they are promoted to the rank of Seaman (star), prior to commencing their category specific training.