Admiral’s valet keeps Chief on task

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Miah Hammond-Errey (author), POIS Phil Cullinan (photographer)

Location(s): Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

Topic(s): Chief of Navy

Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics Support Operation Kim Matthews works as the Personal Assistant to the Chief of Navy. Driving the NAVY1 car is just part of the duties involved with this position. (photo: POIS Phil Cullinan)
Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics Support Operation Kim Matthews works as the Personal Assistant to the Chief of Navy. Driving the NAVY1 car is just part of the duties involved with this position.

Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics - Support Operations Kim Matthews is one of the few people who can tell Chief of Navy where to be and what to wear.
 
As one of his small cohort of personal staff, she is part of a team who support Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, in his demanding daily schedule as head of the Royal Australian Navy.
 
Her duties include coordination and support to official functions, driving the Chief to appointments and ceremonial occasions, maintaining uniforms and various administrative functions.
 
Leading Seaman Matthews is from the Gold Coast in Queensland, and has been in the Navy for nine years, joining originally as a Chef before moving to Maritime Logistics Support Operations (formerly Steward) in 2010. 
 
Leading Seaman Matthews worked for Vice Admiral Barrett in his previous role as Fleet Commander and said her favourite part of both roles is the hospitality side of official functions, hosting dignitaries and important international guests. 
 

Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics Support Operations Kim Matthews works as the Personal Assistant to the Chief of Navy. Making sure that the Chief of Navy's uniform is correct is just part of the duties involved with this position.

Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics Support Operations Kim Matthews works as the Personal Assistant to the Chief of Navy. Making sure that the Chief of Navy's uniform is correct is just part of the duties involved with this position.

“Having a good or bad dinner can make or break official visits and a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to ensure the functions represent the Navy at the highest level,” she said.
 
Her role during official dinners at Chief of Navy's official residence includes coordinating and printing menus and place cards, planning seating, flower arrangements, wine selections, table setup and working as the maitre d'.
 
Other functions the small team co-ordinates are promotion ceremonies, senior officer farewells and official receptions for 20 – 160 people. 
 
“The people that you have the opportunity to meet are a fun part of the job,” she said. 
 
She has worked on functions hosting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Henry of Wales (Prince Harry), Governor General of Australia, Governor of New South Wales, Chief and Vice Chiefs of Defence, United States Chief of Naval Operations and the Japanese Chief of Naval Staff, just to name a few.
 
Driving the ‘NAVY1’ car is a role shared by members of Chief of Navy’s staff but requires more than just the basic drivers' licence. Leading Seaman Matthews had the opportunity to attend advanced driver training and said the course was challenging, but great fun and gave her some new skills. 
 
“When I turned up to the course, I wasn’t sure what I was in for but it teaches you how to drive in difficult situations, like driving in the wet, emergency braking and driving backward. It also teaches you how to get out of suspicious or dangerous situations if faced with them," she said.
 
It is vital that the Chief of Navy has this support to attend to his duties in all manner of conditions.
 
"In addition to the driver training, preparation for travel is important and requires learning new routes and doing a practice drive before the event," she said.
"I make sure I know where the correct drop off zone is for the event and that the car is appropriately marked with star-plates." 
 
An important part of the role is maintaining the Chief of Navy’s extensive uniform because the Chief of Navy represents the service and the nation at a multitude of events, often in quick succession. With different degrees of formality across the course of a day in the job, his uniform must be maintained to the highest standard and be prepared at all times.
 
“It is my job to maintain his uniforms and business attire, this includes ironing and setting up uniforms, organising repairs or exchanging uniforms, ordering pins, badges, medals and ribbons," she said.
"His uniforms must always be ready for events planned or at short notice.”
 
Leading Seaman Matthews concludes her current posting mid year and is looking forward to serving at sea in her next posting.
 
Maritime Logistics Support Operations sailors are employed in the provision of first class service in hospitality duties, business and logistics through canteen and mess management  and conduct specialist skills that are critical to support operations to fight and win at sea.