Staying on track

Published on Royal Australian Navy (author)

Location(s): Sydney

Graduating classmates of the Surface Combatant Navigation Course 03 stand proud with the Commanding Officer HMAS Parramatta, Commander Andrew Willis MVO, RAN (centre) and Navigation Officer HMAS Parramatta Lieutenant Michael Rhys-Jones.

L-R: Lieutenant Scott Benstead, Lieutenant Matthew Warren, Lieutenant Commander William Hooper, Commanding Officer HMAS Parramatta, Commander Andrew Willis MVO, RAN, Navigation Officer HMAS Parramatta Lieutenant Michael Rhys-Jones, Lieutenant Brandan Naylor and Lieutenant James Brandreth. (photo: ABIS Richard Cordell)
Graduating classmates of the Surface Combatant Navigation Course 03 stand proud with the Commanding Officer HMAS Parramatta, Commander Andrew Willis MVO, RAN (centre) and Navigation Officer HMAS Parramatta Lieutenant Michael Rhys-Jones. L-R: Lieutenant Scott Benstead, Lieutenant Matthew Warren, Lieutenant Commander William Hooper, Commanding Officer HMAS Parramatta, Commander Andrew Willis MVO, RAN, Navigation Officer HMAS Parramatta Lieutenant Michael Rhys-Jones, Lieutenant Brandan Naylor and Lieutenant James Brandreth.

Five Navigators have completed the highly intensive Surface Combatant Navigation Course, graduating at HMAS Watson in early August 2014.

The 13 week course teaches skills appropriate to keep a Frigate sized Major Fleet Unit (MFU) safe and operationally capable. Following a lengthy theory phase, the students conducted an arduous four week practical assessment period.

This included one week in the Bridge Simulator at Watson, a week in the Navigation Training Vessel Mercator in and around Sydney Harbour, and culminated in a two week Sea Assessment Period (SAP) conducted around the Whitsunday Islands in HMAS Parramatta.

The total SAP comprised 71 high speed and degraded pilotage runs within theWhitsundayIslandsgroup, and the harbour limits of Cairns, Townsville and Brisbane. During this period, the students managed to cover a distance of 2628.4 nautical miles.

The course graduation was held at Watson with the guest of honour being Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer, Commodore Training, Commodore Michael Rothwell and Captain Ian Watkins, President of the Australian Institute of Navigation, along with many members of the navigation fraternity who made a special effort to welcome the students. 

Upon awarding the students their certificates Rear Admiral Mayer commented that whilst he was not an insider in the ‘wonderful world of navigation’ he highlighted the importance of the relationship between a Commanding Officer and the Navigator.

Lieutenant James Brandreth checks a bearing as he takes HMAS Parramatta through her paces during the Surface Combatant Navigation Course.

Lieutenant James Brandreth checks a bearing as he takes HMAS Parramatta through her paces during the Surface Combatant Navigation Course.

Lieutenant James Brandreth was awarded dux of the course and was also presented a certificate and gift from Captain Watkins on behalf of the Australian Institute of Navigation. The Warfare Community Medallion was awarded to Lieutenant Scott Benstead for his outstanding teamwork, values and leadership. 

Lieutenant Benstead, who will join HMAS Darwin as the Navigator in September, said the course had some challenging moments but was made enjoyable with the camaraderie of the other students.

“Some aspects of the course were challenging, such as conducting high speed degraded pilotage where we had to use other navigation methods, including a sextant and echo sounder, to accurately fix the ship,” Lieutenant Benstead said.

“But our class worked well together and made the overall course enjoyable.”

The students have now joined the Fleet as the next generation of MFU Navigators, ready to deploy with their units in support of current Royal Australian Navy Operations and Exercises.