Operation Hiki Ano — Training and success.

Training new Flight Deck Officers on HMNZS Canterbury during Operation Hiki Ano

It is easy to reflect on the soundness of effecting Hiki Ano 19, a concentrated surge of sea and shoreside training during May and June. Its purpose was to catch up on training backlogs and accelerate the Navy’s readiness for their new and refurbished ships.

But it was practically an act of bravery to suggest it, second it, and authorise it, says Commodore Tony Millar, Maritime Component Commander.

“Hiki Ano 19 showed us that we had this organisational belief, based on the past, that we could train our sailors and at the same time, achieve all of our outputs. We could do this when we had four frigates with a comparatively large number of available bunks for trainees. As part of this training continuum we would have Shakedown Week at the start of the year, then a couple of frigates and the tanker would peel off for a fleet concentration period across the Tasman, while other units continued mission-specific activities at home. So, by late March, the fleet would have demonstrated its readiness and many sailors would have completed basic individual training requirements.” Also, it was no accident that this training occurred at the start of the year. Fresh back from Christmas leave and taking advantage of the settled summer weather for basic seamanship and warfare exercises, it was the most effective time of the year for such training.

“Over time, with the changing shape of the Fleet, it was getting more and more difficult to get enough units available at the same time to create the ‘mass’ necessary for this type of training period and we moved to more single ship training.” As is the naval norm, operations came first: meaning that units were prioritised to be ready to carry out tropical cyclone relief activities or support Other Government Agencies in the conduct of their vitally important work. “So, out of necessity, the generation of capability Output took second place to other Outputs. That was fine in the short term, but over time our seagoing training capacity was dwindling.”

Personnel shortages in critical trades meant that in order to get ships to sea, the Navy had to post experienced people from important shore support roles such as logistics and the schools. Training, development courses and promotions slowed down. As CDRE Millar puts it, they were taking from schools producing the sailors of tomorrow, to get the Navy of today to sea.

“It became obvious that this was untenable,” says CDRE Millar. “It was a brave suggestion by Captain Dave Fairweather [Assistant Chief of Navy Personnel and Training] that we do Operation Hiki Ano 19.” CDRE Millar said yes immediately, and it was further backed by the Chief of Navy.

“Although the original plan was to keep ships alongside to free up instructors to improve the training pipeline, it was identified during the planning stages that this period afforded an opportunity to do much more. So we got Wellington and Canterbury to sea to provide a richer training experience for our people.”

He says the thing to remember was that it was not just about Navy regeneration. “This involved experiments for Capability Branch, Land Forces on board Canterbury, NH90 deck landings and boarding courses for other Government agencies. In fact, this period helped the readiness for the entire NZ Inc, and I’m very proud of that. We didn’t fail to conduct our own outputs.”

He does not want Navy to think this was the cure. “This was the start to accelerate RNZN readiness; however, this must be maintained. We have not yet caught up, but we have made significant inroads. By putting pressure on the whole Navy system, we’ve found procedures that were inefficient, and we can see organisational improvements as a result.” As to the future, this is still under review but he personally likes the idea of some form of Core Military Skills activity along the lines of the excellent initiative conducted by the Air Force.

“We have a really small fleet, but our mission hasn’t changed and it takes a lot of work to ensure that we deliver the missions of today while maintaining our readiness for the contingencies of tomorrow.”

HMNZS Canterbury at sea during Operation Hiki Ano

Hiki Ano 19 was a success, he says. “Individual readiness and collective training increased through this concentrated period, and thus improved the Navy’s personnel state and readiness for joint operations while also assisting the readiness of Army and Air Force.

“The sailors did it, they are responsible for their success. We gave them a challenge, they said let’s do it, and they succeeded, with great enthusiasm.”

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We are the New Zealand Defence Force. We are a Force for New Zealand. This is our official account. nzdf.mil.nz

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New Zealand Defence Force

New Zealand Defence Force

We are the New Zealand Defence Force. We are a Force for New Zealand. This is our official account. nzdf.mil.nz

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