Captain Simon Bateman was no stranger to HMAS Albatross when he assumed command in December 2013, but as he hands over command, he reflects on the changes achieved throughout his tenure.
First posted to 723 Squadron in January 1990 to fly the AS350 Squirrel helicopter, in May 1993, a young Lieutenant Bateman joined 816 Squadron to commence S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter conversion training. He then served as a Seahawk Simulator instructor from June 1995 until September 1996, was Commanding Officer of 805 Squadron from March 2005 to June 2006 and assumed command of 816 Squadron on 30 June 2006. In December 2007 he was posted to staff positions in the Headquarters Fleet Air Arm which culminated in a period as the Chief of Staff from March 2009 until September 2010.
While Captain Bateman was back on familiar ground at Albatross much of the landscape changed dramatically during his command as he oversaw major construction work aimed at upgrading and refurbishing existing facilities and infrastructure.
“It’s been a exciting and challenging time to be here,” Captain Bateman said.
“The base has been here 70 years and this is the first time it has had any real money spent on it.
“When I arrived the Romeo complex had only just started to be built, but since then we have seen that building go up and open along with the Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS) facility being built,”
Captain Bateman played a key role in the many significant and historical events that took place onboard during his command. These included the commissioning ceremony for the first MRH60-Romeo helicopters into 725 Squadron, which marked the formal induction of the squadron and its aircraft into the fleet.
“The arrival of 24 new Seahawk Romeo helicopters and the new EC135 which will be used at HATS were important milestones,” he said.
“The Romeos will be here for the next 30 years. HATS will see all navy and Army helicopter pilots trained here at Albatross and the fact the government has spent almost half a billion dollars on infrastructure shows its commitment to the area."
A major highlight of Captain Bateman’s command was the presentation of the 2015 Governor’s Cup by Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett.
The cup was awarded in recognition of the superior performance of personnel in a demanding and high tempo year and the citation stated that “throughout 2015Albatross coordinated and delivered a consistently high level of support for Navy’s air operations while concurrently managing the many and varied impacts of a major redevelopment of the establishment.”
Captain Bateman also actively encouraged and supported the many and diverse community engagement activities Albatross personnel participate in every year. These events cover every aspect of Shoalhaven community life including ceremonial, business, sporting, educational, cultural and fund raising.
Captain Bateman personally went beyond usual concepts of community engagement on many occasions. In 2014 he completed a marathon as part of the Running for Lachlan team which raised more than $10,000 in support of the Cure for Brain Cancer Foundation.
In his farewell message to Albatross command personnel Captain Bateman said in his eyes, the base has never looked so good.
“I walk out of here today after not only three years in command but after a 27 year period being connected with the 'Tross. It has been an exciting time and I am sure these times will continue. I can honestly say that with the new facilities and aircraft it hasn't looked better."
Captain Bateman’s next posting is as the Defence Adviser in New Delhi but before handing Command of Albatross over to Captain Fiona Sneath he managed to add two more highlights to a lengthy list with a 12,000 feet tandem parachute jump with the Parachute Training School and a final flight in the S-70B-2 Seahawk.