The many hats of a patrol boat Coxswain

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Des Paroz (author), LSIS Kayla Hayes (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation RESOLUTE

Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain Michelle Cannon holds officer of the watch responsibilities onboard HMAS Wollongong at sea. (photo: ABIS Kayla Hayes)
Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain Michelle Cannon holds officer of the watch responsibilities onboard HMAS Wollongong at sea.

As the Navy Police Coxswain in the Armidale class patrol boat HMAS Wollongong, Petty Officer Coxswain Michelle Cannon undertakes a wide range of duties essential to the daily life on board a Navy Ship.

Every ship in the Australian Navy has a Coxswain as part of ship's company - a key role responsible for coordinating many aspects of life at sea, providing command with valuable support in the areas of order and discipline, whole ship coordination and expert helm capability during 'special duties' evolutions such as setting sail and berthing the ship.

Having been at sea on Patrol Boats serving on Operation RESOLUTE continuously since 2007, Petty Officer Cannon said that the role in a small vessel is even more varied.

"On major ships and in shore establishments, the role of a Coxswain is generally more about keeping the ship organised along with order and discipline - areas where things are generally black and white - but in Patrol Boats Coxswains are also the ship's principal health care providers and Officers of the Watch," Petty OfficerCannon said.

"Being the leader of the Ship's Medical Emergency Team brings an opportunity to develop greater empathy and compassion, and I believe that this provides the opportunity to be a better Coxswain, and a better advisor to Command."

In Wollongong, Petty Officer Cannon's role also encompasses being an Equity Advisor, drug and alcohol awareness coordinator and a member of the Ship's Welfare Committee.

Wollongong's
 Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Scott Wilson, appreciates the attention to detail that Petty Officer Cannon brings to the role.

"Many of the jobs we ask a Coxswain to perform are thankless tasks, but Petty Officer Cannon does them well, bringing officers and sailors on side,” Lieutenant Commander Wilson said.

"Her efforts are a key driver in ensuring that the ship is presented well, making a good impression to all who visit the ship and interact with ship's company."

The Royal Australian Navy's 13 Armidale class patrol boats and two Cape class patrol boats are the workhorses of the Fleet, conducting maritime security operations under the auspices of Maritime Border Command