Captain Howard Furness will be retiring from the Navy this year, leaving behind very large shoes to fill, as well as decades worth of knowledge and memories.
After joining the Navy as a 15 years old, Captain Furness has made a significant contribution during his 42 years of service.
“During my years working with the Navy I have certainly seen most aspects of the job. When I began in 1972 I was a seaman officer trainee, and my early sea postings included the Aircraft Carrier HMAS Melbourne, three Darwin based Patrol Boats and three Destroyer Escorts.”
“In the early 80s I completed 4 years exchange in the Royal Navy (RN), under taking Principal Warfare Officer (PWO) training as a PWO Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and exchange postings in two RN frigates where I was fortunate to deploy to the West Indies for five months and North Atlantic as part of a NATO deployment for 5 months. I was also privileged to attend the Royal Navy Staff College at Greenwich.”
On return to Australia he had the first of four postings to Guided Missile Frigates (FFGs) which included deployments to the first Gulf War as Executive Officer HMAS Darwin and to South East Asia, Heard Island and North Asia as Commanding Officer HMAS Canberra and Newcastle.
“The first Gulf War has to be one of the highlights of my career. This was effectively the first ‘war-like’ deployment since Vietnam and involved the most intensive operational workup I have ever experienced,” said Captain Furness.
“The deployment to Heard Island was also memorable, as we completed the southern most replenishment at sea for any Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ship; the water temperature was three degrees, it was snowing, and penguins were swimming between Westralia and Newcastle. I was also on the first RAN ship to visit Qindau, the home to the Chinese North Fleet in the 1997.”
Captain Furness has contributed to a range of improvements to Fleet’s operational effectiveness and performance throughout his career, of which he is very proud.
“I was project Director for nine months for the development of the Fleet Performance Management tool, ‘MONICAR’, which has evolved somewhat since its early days and provides significant ability to monitor the many FICs influencing Fleet’s performance. In 2000 I was posted as Chief of Staff to Commodore Flotillas where I received a Conspicuous Service Cross in 2002 for my efforts as the inaugural Chief Staff Officer – Warfare and for planning and execution roles in exercises RIMPAC and TANDEM THRUST.”
“The highlight of my shore postings was a posting to the Australian Embassy in Washington for three years, which included the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon the morning after I was in the United States Navy Command Centre that was destroyed.”
In early 2012 CAPT Furness was promoted to the inaugural Chief Staff Officer Regulation and Safety (R&S) position in Fleet Headquarters which was established following the Fleet Regulatory Review. The R&S Group subsequently evolved into the Operational Seaworthiness Division (OSwD) which included the newly formed Marine Safety Bureau (MSB); Fleet’s centre of excellence for Safety.
“I have been particularly impressed with the way in which Fleet has improved its safety and seaworthiness culture over the past two years, and the processes that my team have and are developing to improve operational effectiveness in Fleet Command.”
Those who have worked alongside Captain Furness, have high praise for him.
“Captain Furness has established the first solid footprints in maintaining safety and seaworthiness for the fleet,” said Commander Robert Spencer.
Commander Nick Barker from OSwD echoes this sentiment.
“One of the most incredible things about Captain Furness is how utterly passionate he is, and has always continued to be, about his job and the work he has been doing,” said Commander Barker.
“He has been a massive champion of both seaworthiness and safety, selling the concept and its practical application, canvassing for the appropriate allocation of resources, whilst overseeing and steering the development of procedures, practices and culture across all levels of Navy and Fleet management.”
“Captain Furness’ legacy will continue for many years after his retirement. His contribution to seaworthiness has set the Navy up for the next 20 years,” said Commander Barker.
During his 42 years of service, Captain Furness has seen the Navy evolve.
“I have seen so many changes, including the introduction of females at sea from 1990, which I think is a tremendous positive to the RAN. I have seen improvements of conditions of service for personnel, and improvements in technology.” said Captain Furness.
“I have no regrets about my career, except for missing seeing parts of my kids’ childhood. I would recommend this career path to anyone. I have enjoyed my career and life within the Navy and would recommend it to anyone who aspires to a challenging career working with great people, cutting edge technology and the life-long camaraderie Naval service brings.”
“What I will miss the most is the people; their enthusiasm, loyalty and sacrifice. Within the navy, life is a constant reunion with the many thousands of people I have met, within Australia and around the world, and that is something I hope to further in my retirement.” said Captain Furness.
“The advice I would give to anyone starting their career now is to communicate and persevere, and by communicate I do not mean SMS; there is no substitute for face to face communication.”
“In my retirement I am looking forward to lowering my golf handicap and catching some more Marlin. I am also planning to reward my wife for her sufferance over these many years with an overseas trip or two.”