First in submarine exchange initiative

Published on Mr Andrew Bujdegan (author), ABIS Chris Beerens (photographer)

Location(s): Fremantle, WA

Topic(s): HMAS Waller (S75), HMAS Rankin (S78)

Lieutenant Nathan Whitelaw and Lieutenant Roger Terry prior to embarking on their exchange program sea phase onboard HMAS Rankin, departing from HMAS Stirling, Western Australia. (photo: ABIS Chris Beerens)
Lieutenant Nathan Whitelaw and Lieutenant Roger Terry prior to embarking on their exchange program sea phase onboard HMAS Rankin, departing from HMAS Stirling, Western Australia.

Two of the most recent additions to the Royal Australian Navy Submarine Force are part of a Australian-United States Navy Personnel Exchange Program.  Lieutenants Nathan Whitelaw and Roger Terry are the first United States Navy officers to take part in the program between the two Submarine Forces.

The program is designed to further develop the strong relationship between the submarine forces of the two countries. One Australian junior officer submariner is also posted to a Pearl Harbor-based fast attack submarine on a six month rotational basis.

Both US officers have just completed their first sea tour aboard one of their own submarines.  The exchange program offers them a follow on sea duty assignment with the Royal Australian Navy as opposed to posting to a traditional shore duty assignment. Both officers recently completed deployments to the Middle East region; Lieutenant Whitelaw aboard the USS Scranton and Lieutenant Terry aboard the USS Springfield.

They are currently enrolled in Australia's Submarine Warfare Officers' Course.  Upon completion, Lieutenant Whitelaw will post to HMAS Rankin and Lieutenant Terry will post to HMAS Waller.  There they will continue their qualifications by qualifying watch leaders aboard their new submarines.

Although they're fully qualified US submariners, Lieutenant Terry said their new assignments bring unique challenges.
"The most challenging part is learning a new name for all the skills we already possess."

The course is over four months long and includes extensive theory and simulator phases aimed at developing and testing the students' tactical and leadership skills.  It culminates in a two week sea assessment phase which is the final test of tactical skills required for graduation.  In preparation for this, the lieutenants are obtaining necessary sea-time by riding HMAS Rankin this spring.

While not on course they have been taking full advantage of living in Fremantle, Western Australia said Lieutenant Whitelaw.
"I am impressed with the amount of sports the Aussies follow," he said.

Both are now avid Fremantle Dockers Australian Rules Football fans, having attended several home games including the preliminary finals game in Subiaco.

They are scheduled to graduate in December and join their Australian boats shortly thereafter.