Keeping it in the Navy family

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Gary McHugh (author), LSIS Lee-Anne Cooper (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Dechaineux (S76)

The new Commanding Officer of HMAS Dechaineux, CMDR Daniel Sutherland, RAN, stands with his wife Rita, father LCDR David Sutherland, and brother CHAP James Sutherland, after a command supersession on HMAS Dechaineux at Fleet Base West. (photo: LSIS Lee-Anne Cooper)
The new Commanding Officer of HMAS Dechaineux, CMDR Daniel Sutherland, RAN, stands with his wife Rita, father LCDR David Sutherland, and brother CHAP James Sutherland, after a command supersession on HMAS Dechaineux at Fleet Base West.

They say Navy is like one big family but when it comes to three people in the west it’s more a case of a family within a family.

Lieutenant Commander David Sutherland, (Deputy Officer-In-Charge Fleet Logistic Support Element – Submarines) and his sons Commander Daniel Sutherland (Commanding Officer, submarine HMAS Dechaineux) and Chaplain James Sutherland (HMAS Stirling) are all proud Navy officers based in Western Australia.

But the family’s involvement with Navy doesn’t stop at the three Sutherland men, with matriarch, Mrs Frances Sutherland having senior service history also.

Lieutenant Commander Sutherland first joined the Navy as a Junior Recruit in 1974, after which he was categorised as a Writer; a couple of years later he met the future Mrs Sutherland, who was also serving as a Writer.

“After reaching the rank of Warrant Officer in 2001, I changed over to officer and continued serving in the Supply branch,” Lieutenant Commander Sutherland said.

“It was a very proud moment for my wife and I when our sons were accepted to serve in the Navy and follow in their parents’ footsteps.

“They have both forged their own career paths in the Navy, and for the first time in many years the family is all located in the same area.”

Commander Sutherland said he was drawn to a career in the Navy from an early age.

“I saw the lifestyle that my father had, and the greater Navy family that he was a part of, and the excitement of a unique job that I couldn’t do anywhere else certainly had appeal for me,” he said.

Commander Sutherland joined the Navy through the Australian Defence Force Academy in 1998, and after staying on to complete his Honours Degree, he undertook his Seaman Officers’ Application Course and was posted to the former HMAS Adelaide.

It wasn’t long, however, before the lure of submarines enticed Commander Sutherland to undertake the Submarine Officers’ Training Course, and in 2005 he was awarded his Dolphins.

“Since then, I’ve had various postings in Australian and Canadian submarines, culminating in my attendance at the Royal Netherlands Navy Submarine Command Course in 2016,” he said.

“On the successful completion of that gruelling course, I qualified for submarine command and was then selected as Commanding Officer of Dechaineux in mid 2016.”

But it wasn’t always a given that both sons would follow the family tradition of joining the Navy, with Chaplain Sutherland saying that as a young boy he wasn’t sure that a career in the Navy was one that particularly suited him.

“Growing up I was quite adamant that I wasn’t going to join the Navy, and really only saw it as my brother Daniel’s dream,” he said.

“However, after reflecting on the experience of going on a father/son cruise (as they were known back then) with my dad and brother, I thought that the Navy was a career that I could really enjoy.”

In fact, it seemed that day-long cruise in the former HMAS Swan, was the forerunner of a long and industrious naval career for both the Sutherland boys.

“I joined up after my brother in 2001 as a midshipman, however a year-and-a-half later I left the Navy to enter a full time vocational ministry as a Baptist Minister,” Chaplain Sutherland said.

This proved to be a temporary arrangement and it wasn’t long before James found himself back in uniform, this time as a Navy Chaplain.

Commander Sutherland echoed his father’s and brother’s thoughts on all three members being posted west at the same time.

“I'm really pleased to have all of us in the Navy, and it’s fantastic that it has managed to have all three of us in the same place for a time,” he said.

“Dad's position within the Fleet Logistics Support Element – Submarines also means that we have some face-to-face contact through work which is novel, but enjoyable.

“We have very supportive families who, of course do it tough to enable us to do what we do in our chosen careers in the Navy.”