Submariner at home in the desert on ADF operations

Published on LEUT Peter Croce (author), CPL Janine Fabre (photographer)

Location(s): Camp Baird, UAE

Lieutenant John Gray, a Royal Australian Navy submariner from Fremantle in Western Australia, has exchanged his steel working environment for a Middle East portable office complex. 

He is currently deployed on Operation ACCORDION at Camp Baird in the United Arab Emirates. Here he is seen in his workplace at Headquarters Joint Task Force 633. (photo: CPL Janine Fabre)
Lieutenant John Gray, a Royal Australian Navy submariner from Fremantle in Western Australia, has exchanged his steel working environment for a Middle East portable office complex. He is currently deployed on Operation ACCORDION at Camp Baird in the United Arab Emirates. Here he is seen in his workplace at Headquarters Joint Task Force 633.

Working on Australian Defence Force operations in a room without windows is no challenge for Royal Australian Navy submariner Lieutenant John Gray in the Middle East.

Lieutenant Gray, 24, from Fremantle in Western Australia, is deployed to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) Operation Accordion at Camp Baird, UAE to provide operational support to personnel across the Middle East Region.

The former Wanneroo Senior High School student plays a key role in the Headquarters Joint Task Force 633 (HQ JTF633) Joint Operations Room that serves as the lynchpin that ties together the efforts of about 1000 Australian personnel.

“I am part of a team that coordinates the flow of information in and out of the Operations Cell in HQJTF633 with personnel in Afghanistan for Operation Slipper, the Australian warship on operations in the region for Operation Manitou and other Australian Defence Force personnel in the broader Middle East,” he said.

“Being deployed here to active operations has been a long-term goal of mine and I am proud to have played my part over here.”

“It’s a lot different to my role as a Maritime Warfare Officer on a submarine and I am still getting my head around being in a windowless space without being able to touch the ceiling. It’s not like being on a submarine.”

“On the lighter side, the biggest challenge is learning how to ‘speak’ Army after coming from a Navy background and having never worked directly with Army or Air Force before.”

Lieuteant Gray has previously deployed to Operation Resolute in Armidale Class Patrol Boats Pirie and Ararat as well as Exercise Sea Lion in 2008 in HMAS Manoora. He has also taken part in Exercises Bersama Padu, Kakadu and Singaroo in HMAS Toowoomba.

After switching to submarines in 2011, he has deployed to Exercise Bersama Shield in HMAS Collins and Dechaineux and Exercise Triton Storm 2.

He joined the Royal Australian Navy in 2008 as a Maritime Warfare Officer after spending a year at University following high school.

“I wanted a job where I could be mentally challenged, where I could see the world and be paid well while doing it – the Navy ticked all those boxes,” he said.

“What followed was three years of theoretical and practical training on warships followed by a further 12 months within the Submarine Squadron to be awarded my ‘Dolphins’ (submarine qualification).

“I don’t regret a second of it and recommend submarines and the Navy in general to anybody – it has been a great experience.”

Lieutenant Gray will return home to his girlfriend in Fremantle in late October and can’t wait to see his family, take his nieces and nephews for their first visit to the aquarium and catch up with friends that he has missed after more than six months away.