'Flying' the flag

Published on LCDR Chloe Wootten (author), Unknown (photographer)

Chief Petty Officer Hyam delivers a scripture reading during Remembrance Day and Unveiling of the Australian Naval Aviation Roll of Honour Ceremonies. (photo: Unknown)
Chief Petty Officer Hyam delivers a scripture reading during Remembrance Day and Unveiling of the Australian Naval Aviation Roll of Honour Ceremonies.

Chief Petty Officer Aviation Technical - Avionics Rebecca Hyam joined the Women's Royal Australian Navy in 1987 as Recruit Air Technical Weapons Electrical sailor.
 
Her first preference was to join as a Radio Operator but at the time there were no available positions on the course, so she took her second preference.
 
"On graduation from recruit school, I posted to HMAS Albatross in Nowra for my initial training-phase, which was for three months - we had to decide which helicopter squadron we wanted to work on and I picked the Sea King - I just really liked the look of them!" she said.
 
Starting at 817 Squadron just after Anzac Day 1988 for a consolidation phase, all maintainers were then issued with an A5 photocopied booklet that had various jobs which were common to an aircraft type. Chief Petty Officer Hyam recently reflected on how much avaition maintenance has changed.
 
"The maintenance then was called flexible servicing. The way the maintenance was programmed, was using a massive pin board on the wall in the Chiefs' office and the only people allowed to touch that, were the Chiefs," she said.
 
"They forecast when the next servicing would be due using part science, part art, and set the dates by move the coloured pin. Nowadays the maintenance has been arranged into hourly or date blocks, so you don’t have a servicing due here, there and everywhere."
 
In the early 2000s Computer Aided Maintenance Management took over and sailors updated the computer program which rescheduled the servicings within it. Slowly computer terminals began to be scattered through the hangar.
 
"We still use the system now in every aspect of programming maintenance but the big difference today is the ability to sign for your work electronically with a login and password. So no more writing, it can be a purely paperless system," she said.
 
In her 27 years in the Navy, she hasn't been tethered to Nowra. She spent time in HMAS Stalwart during her decommissioning voyage, she was posted to HMAS Nirimba for 13 months, and RAAF Base Wagga. One memorable posting was to HMAS Success as a part of an embarked flight.
 
"Starting in 1997, I was posted to a flight and worked on HMAS Success for two-and-a-half years, then rotations saw me back at 817 Squadron. I absolutely loved my time at sea. By the end of that posting the Navy had taken me to every state in Australia," she said.   
 
Reflecting on the changes that had her become a member of the Royal Australian Navy in 1991, she said the inclusion of women in the male-dominated service took a little adjustment from all.
 
"We lost our unique ranks, so I went from being a 'Senior WRAN' to an Able Seaman. Along with that we changed our uniforms too.
 
"We were issued with, and could start wearing, trousers and shorts everyday like the guys. Which for some, it was a long time coming, as sometimes a skirt was just not practical. Although we did have our overalls, you could work on the aircraft in shorts."
 
In 2000, on promotion to Petty Officer she was selected for training at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology to complete Diploma in Aircraft Maintenance. She then posted to Training Authority Aviation at Albatross and instructed the Initial Technician Equipment Application courses for Sea King Maintenance.

Shark 22 takes off from number one spot which is on the forward flight deck of HMAS Kanimbla during Exercise RIMPAC 2010.

Shark 22 takes off from number one spot which is on the forward flight deck of HMAS Kanimbla during Exercise RIMPAC 2010.


In 2010 onboard HMAS Kanimbla she hit a career highlight and life goal - to take an aircraft to sea, during Exercise RIMPAC.
 
In August 2010, she became the first female Flight Senior Maintenance Sailor and received her charge badge.
 
"The following month, I was the Responsible Engineering Officer (REO) for a Sea King detachment to the ADF Air show at RAAF Williamstown. This was a great achievement for me," she said.
 
Currently posted to the Competency Management Cell back in the training world, she is responsible for the management and completion of the Aviation Sailors apprenticeships and competency journals.
 
"I was the seventeenth female to join the Navy as an Aviation Sailor, at present I am the longest serving Aviation female and one of two Chiefs still serving.
 
"I’ve found during my time as a Technician that as long as you do your job well, you are accepted. It is a really rewarding career and you get out of it, what you put into it."

(L-R) Mr Tyrone Palmer, Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Alan Munchow, Chief Petty Officer Air Technical Avionics Rebecca Hyam and Petty Officer Cryptologic Linguist Lara Evans discuss the mapping procedures for the Training Force Improvement Workshop.

(L-R) Mr Tyrone Palmer, Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Alan Munchow, Chief Petty Officer Air Technical Avionics Rebecca Hyam and Petty Officer Cryptologic Linguist Lara Evans discuss the mapping procedures for the Training Force Improvement Workshop.