Trading places underwater for a cause

Published on ABML-SSM Linda Fielmich (author), Unknown (photographer)

Location(s): Fleet Base West, WA

Topic(s): HMAS Dechaineux (S76), Soldier On

From left: Captain for a Day Winner ABETSM James Delahaye, Soldier On Representative Ms Shannon Hennesy, and CO Dechaineux Commander Dan Sutherland. (photo: Unknown)
From left: Captain for a Day Winner ABETSM James Delahaye, Soldier On Representative Ms Shannon Hennesy, and CO Dechaineux Commander Dan Sutherland.

At the end of a long and successful deployment, most submariners dream of seeing loved ones, a long hot shower and their own bed - and everyone longs for the luxury of open space. As the only person on board with “room to swing a cat”, HMAS Dechaineux Commanding Officer Commander Dan Sutherland recently decided to share this privilege for one day, for a good cause.

After the hectic pace of multinational exercises and Dechaineux’s recent deployment drawing to a close, CMDR Sutherland spread the word that the illustrious position of ‘Captain for a Day’ would be auctioned off to the highest bidder, with all proceeds going to Soldier On.

The concept of Captain for a Day is simple – the winning bidder trades places with the CO for 24 hours.

This includes enjoying all the benefits that go with being in command of a Collins Class submarine, such as access to the CO’s cabin, valet service, dining in the wardroom, and a gold braid ball cap as a memento of the occasion.

The trade also meant that CMDR Sutherland would take on the rank and role of the lucky winner.

The crew divided into syndicates, with each of the two watches (or shifts) funding a representative in their bid.

After a week of bids and selfless donations, Able Seaman Electronics Technician James Delahaye was announced the winner with a bid of $1070, with a total of $2527 raised for Soldier On.

The Captain for a Day took up his role and new digs en route from Darwin to the submarine’s home port at Fleet Base West.

When asked about the highlight of his time as Captain for a Day, AB Delahaye was adamant in his response.

“Definitely wearing the hat, and maybe also playing some video games, all for a good cause of course,” he said.

CMDR Sutherland also embraced his new role.

“It was great to be able to remind myself of what it’s like to keep watches, and to really work alongside our Junior Sailors who make everything happen, getting to know them better,” he said.

“But I was glad to get back to my own cabin after 24 hours.”

Soldier On focuses on three key factors in helping service personnel transition into civilian life: social activities, employment and education, and psychological support.

The group relies on corporate sponsors, trusts, philanthropic support and the generosity of the community to fund its important work.