Gap year turns into Navy career

Published on CPL Dan Pinhorn (author and photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Ballarat (F155), Navy Gap Year

Able Seaman Medic Renée Simmons examines a patient onboard HMAS Ballarat. (photo: CPL Dan Pinhorn)
Able Seaman Medic Renée Simmons examines a patient onboard HMAS Ballarat.

Able Seaman Medic Renée Simmons left Shellharbour, New South Wales, for what she thought would be a 12-month stepping stone to a career in the police force. Instead, she found a rewarding career in the Navy.

“I joined the Navy in 2011 as part of the Gap Year program. It was a year spent travelling around Australia and experiencing different roles, including aviation, stores and medical,” Able Seaman Simmons said.

Able Seaman Medic Renée Simmons on board HMAS Ballarat.

Able Seaman Medic Renée Simmons on board HMAS Ballarat.

Three months into her gap year, she realised she loved the Navy and pursued a permanent career as a medic.

“It provided the opportunity to discover who you are as a person and what things you may be interested in so you can select a job category that suits you,” Able Seaman Simmons said.

She trained at the Army School of Health and graduated as a full-time medic with diplomas in Nursing and Paramedical Science.

“I have done many things since enlisting. The best was deploying with the United States Navy Ship USNS Mercy,” she said.

“The Mercy toured third-world countries, assisting the ill and injured, and providing medical assistance to their communities. If required, we brought people aboard and provided them with medicines or even conducted surgery.”

Able Seaman Simmons was posted recently to HMAS Ballarat when it deployed to the Middle East Region.

“Being on Ballarat whilst on deployment was an absolute dream,” she said.

Ballarat made a significant impact while deployed, seizing tonnes of illegal drugs, and performing counter-piracy and counter-terrorism duties.