Australian naval reserve set for greater role in navy operations

The Royal Australian Navy is looking to enhance the role of its naval reserve as it works on ways of growing its future workforce.

HMAS Ararat conducts a boarding exercise on Discovery III as part of their Mission Readiness Evaluation, off the coast of Darwin, NT. Photo: Royal Australian Navy

The navy says plans are underway to further integrate the part-time and full-time elements of the navy.

Since its formation in 1911, the naval reserve has transformed numerous times to meet navy’s changing requirements. Historically, the reserve existed as a strategic reserve able to be mobilized in time of major conflict. Today however, the naval reserve is a fundamental component of navy’s maritime capability and operates across the maritime environment.

Director General Australian Naval Cadets and Reserves, CDRE Mark Hill, says navy is progressively drawing on the skills, experience and diversity of naval reservists to ensure the maintenance and delivery of critical capabilities. “Today, the reserve is increasingly being called upon to fill current and future capability shortfalls in navy’s workforce,” he said.

‘Members of the reserve are hard at work in raise, train and sustain activities as well as Operations.’

“These members provide service in a diverse range of officer and sailor categories that are vital to the success of the ADF’s mission,” he said.

One best-known example of how the naval reserve is enhancing permanent navy capability is in the patrol boat force where reservists provide valuable operational relief through the Patrol Boat Crew Support Squadron (PBCSS). Some 75 reserves have been employed on operational relief duties in ACPB and other platforms this year alone. The PBCSS provides relief for crew members so that capabilities of the patrol boat crews are not compromised, thereby ensuring that patrol boats can continue to deploy for their border protection role.

CDRE Hill says the reserve will be essential in generating and sustaining navy’s future deployable health and joint cyber warfare capabilities. ‘These types of opportunities are becoming more common in the changing global environment’, CDRE Hill said. ‘Employing reserve members to fill specialist roles is a cost-effective way of importing civilian expertise rather than replicating expensive training pipelines.’

These roles are now articulated in the Naval Reserve Workforce Capability Statement released in September 2017, which brings into effect the Chief of Navy’s strategic intent for the naval reserve.

CDRE Hill says navy’s strategic depth and warfighting capability is strengthened by increasing the ability to call upon all components of the workforce. ’We need to be innovative,’ CDRE Hill said. ‘We must make greater use of contemporary workforce management practices and flexible work arrangements brought by the total workforce model to better exploit to the capacity and capability of our reserve workforce.’

Importantly, the total workforce model will deliver benefits through the implementation of career management, flexible career pathways to optimise the use of the reserve, flexible training delivery that maximises online learning opportunities, and a better understanding of civilian accreditations and qualifications held by Reserve members.

The intended end state to be achieved is a fully integrated naval reserve workforce that is more capable of supporting navy’s current and forecast capability requirements.