WHEN Rockhampton's Clayton Searle signed up to the Royal Australian Navy in 2011, he thought he'd return home four years later with an experience of a lifetime and a qualification in engineering.
But after five years of alleged broken promises and no qualification in sight, the 23-year-old left the Navy and is now the lead applicant in a lawsuit against the very organisation he signed up to as an 18-year-old sailor.
For the past 18 months, Clayton and 200 other Navy sailors have been putting together a case against the defence force organisation after they were promised certain qualifications in their contract that the Navy has not upheld.
Clayton had always wanted a trade and thought he'd have the best of both worlds when he signed up to the Navy.
"When I signed on in January 2011 I was signed under a contract that said I would receive a Cert IV in engineering in a four-year time span," he said.
"That's why I joined because I thought the idea of the Navy was pretty cool, serving the country, travelling and coming out with a trade. I, along with many others, have a contract in black and white that says on this date four years later we will receive a Cert IV in engineering."
Two years into his service Clayton started to get concerned when he had completed little to no engineering training.
"I hadn't received any training or enough training that would qualify me in another two years' time," he claimed.
"I, and 50 other sailors, always asked what was happening with our training and each time we'd be told that we'd be getting a visit from higher up in a few weeks' time. When that time came we were told they were in the process of making us these new courses and that we'd come out with a Cert III which is a lesser qualification than the certificate we were promised.
"I was made to sign a variation contract from a Cert IV to a Cert III when a guy came into the classroom saying that the Cert IV wasn't happening anymore. Even if I'd gotten the Cert III it wouldn't have been worth the paper it was written on as I would have had to do excess training as a civilian to gain the full qualification."
Clayton, who spent the past two years battling pirates out on the waters of the Middle East, left the Navy after five years of service and returned home to Rockhampton a month ago. He's been looking for work ever since.
"It's so frustrating because I joined to get a trade and I would have had it by now," he said.
"I'm 23 and I've got hardly any qualifications. I'm struggling to find a job and that's why we all want the compensation but at the end of the day the compensation isn't going to help the fact that I, along with 200 other people, am still four years away from a trade.
"I've only got a Cert II in Engineering and a Cert II in Transport and Distribution which you can do at TAFE in a week. I'm all for people joining the Navy but what you see on TV is not what happens in real life."
A Defence spokesperson said the Navy was "aware of the concerns raised by some current and former marine technicians, who joined the Navy under the Marine Technician 2010 Career Continuum, and has engaged with those affected".
"The Navy's position is to solve this training issue," the spokesperson said. "Unfortunately, as a result of the legal proceedings being commenced, the Navy is unable to comment further."