‘You’ll be wet, homesick and frightened but the pride of the fleet will be you’ – was a recruitment advertisement at the local cinema which lured a 17-year-old Townsville school boy to join the Navy.
Reflecting on his Navy career, Warrant Officer Combat Systems Manager Artie Lavender, a recent recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia, shared his ‘lessons learnt’ for Navy’s budding leaders.
“Leadership is about understanding the capabilities and limitations of your sailors, knowing what they can do, and more importantly, what they can’t do,” Warrant Officer Lavender said.
“One characteristic that every leader should possess is accessibility.
“I expect my leaders to be visible to the troops as nothing separates the leader from their sailors more than a closed door.
“I learnt from my early days as a Leading Seaman that if you look after your sailors, they’ll look after you.
“My subordinates know that hard work and dedication leads to more responsibility and more freedom and more,” he said.
The Deputy Officer-in-Charge at the School of Maritime Warfare – West confessed that knowing and trusting sailors coupled with ‘leading by example’ were essential traits for first-time leaders.
“Leaders need to understand that all knowledge and skills are perishable,” he said.
“If you know your sailors are lacking knowledge in a certain function or area, implement a training regime that enables you to fill that knowledge gap for them.”
Warrant Officer Lavender discovered over the years that loyalty and trust are by-products of each other.
“Trust your sailors and they’ll trust you and will demonstrate loyalty,” he said.
“Set the example, don’t be the example - should apply in everything we do as leaders.”
The rugby die-hard said that leadership was easily demonstrated by attending physical training with sailors.
When the going gets tough, he said he managed to face adversity by falling back to his training.
“When I joined the Navy, our ships would conduct a gruelling evaluation on completion of work-up,” he said.
“You need to know everything you possibly can about your job, know why you are doing your job and master your craft so that you become the owner of it.
“If you understand what you are trying to achieve, it allows you to put the tough times into perspective.
“In warfare, knowing what you need to achieve and knowing how you can use your tools to achieve that goal leads to free flowing seamless warfare.”
Warrant Officer Lavender said that it was great that Navy was returning to speaking about warfare across all contexts.
“We all know that lethality is distributed by our capability and our capability is driven by our war fighters,” Warrant Officer Lavender said.
“War fighters can only be as good as the training they receive and must train to fight, train to succeed and train to win - there is no other option.
“To maintain the sharpness at the tip of the spear, we have to keep in the forefront of our thoughts that prevention is better than the cure.”
The career sailor ranks bringing HMAS Perth out of anti-ship missile defence upgrade as the most enjoyable and rewarding assignment in his career.
“Using the system to engage up to ten aircraft simultaneously, to engaging five-inch rounds that were fired at us from HMAS Toowoomba and then finishing up with a trip to Hawaii in-company with HMAS Sydney to track remote control targets was amazing,” he said.
“The things we did and the goals we achieved in such a short period of time will last with me forever.”
There have been many mentors that have influenced and guided his career - from Principal Warfare Officers through to Commanding Officers.
“I have learnt a lot from Lieutenant Commander Dylan White, the Officer-in-Charge of Maritime Warfare,” he said.
“His energetic demeanour; enthusiastic approach to warfare and more importantly the way he encourages ideas on how to do things better are infectious.”