Sharing lessons with the US Navy

Published on LCDR Emma McDonald-Kerr (author), ABIS Kayla Hayes (photographer)

Location(s): Fleet Headquarters, Sydney

The annual USN and RAN Strategic Workforce and Personnel Steering Group (SWPSG) held at Fleet Headquarters Sydney. (From front left) Rear Admiral Frederick Roegge (USN), Deputy Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Michael van Balen, RAN and Fleet Master Chief April Beldo (USN). (From back left) Captain Mike Smith, AOM, RAN, USN Strategic Workforce and Personnel Steering Group Manager of Business, Mr Lee Johnson and Warrant Officer Navy, Warrant Officer Martin Holzberger, CSC, RAN. (photo: ABIS Kayla Hayes)
The annual USN and RAN Strategic Workforce and Personnel Steering Group (SWPSG) held at Fleet Headquarters Sydney. (From front left) Rear Admiral Frederick Roegge (USN), Deputy Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Michael van Balen, RAN and Fleet Master Chief April Beldo (USN). (From back left) Captain Mike Smith, AOM, RAN, USN Strategic Workforce and Personnel Steering Group Manager of Business, Mr Lee Johnson and Warrant Officer Navy, Warrant Officer Martin Holzberger, CSC, RAN.

In a sign of the deep ties that underpin the Australian and United States’ security alliance, the Royal Australian Navy hosted the fourth Strategic Workforce and Personnel Steering Group forum between 5th and 6th August, at Fleet Headquarters in Sydney. The SWPSG reports to and supports the strategic dialogue between the US Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations and the Australian Chief of Navy (CN).

Co-hosted by the US Navy’s Director of Military Personnel Plans and Policy, Rear Admiral Frederick ‘Fritz’ Roegge, and the Royal Australian Navy’s Deputy Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Michael van Balen, senior representatives from both navies came together to exchange information on workforce and personnel initiatives as well as identifying areas for ongoing and future collaboration.  

Some of the topics discussed included recruitment and retention, training challenges, and personnel policy development.

Reflecting on the meeting, Rear Admiral Roegge said that he had been surprised to learn the great extent to which the two navies shared the same challenges.

A focal area of the discussion was experiences relating to serving women.

With the US Navy having recently commenced training and employing female officers to serve at sea in submarines, and female enlisted sailors to soon have the same opportunity, the steering group provided them a forum to draw on the Royal Australian Navy’s fifteen years’ of experience of women serving in Collins Class submarines.   

“We are benefitting greatly from lessons learned by the Royal Australian Navy and hope that sharing our own experiences is of value,” Rear Admiral Roegge said.

A follow on visit to HMAS Stirling enabled members of the US Navy delegation, including the Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education Fleet Master Chief of the US Navy, April Beldo, an opportunity to talk with members of the submarine community and gain an understanding of the integrated messing arrangements that commenced in 2006.

Warrant Officer Navy, Warrant Officer Martin Holzberger, CSC, RAN, in discussion with Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education Fleet Master Chief April Beldo (USN) during the annual USN-RAN Strategic Workforce and Personnel Steering Group meeting.

Warrant Officer Navy, Warrant Officer Martin Holzberger, CSC, RAN, in discussion with Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education Fleet Master Chief April Beldo (USN) during the annual USN-RAN Strategic Workforce and Personnel Steering Group meeting.

Hosting Fleet Master Chief Beldo throughout her visit to Australia, Warrant Officer of the Navy (WO-N), Martin Holzberger, said that meeting the crew of HMAS Waller and participating in a submarine leadership panel highlighted how successful the Royal Australian Navy has progressed opening up all service avenues to women.

“It is easy to forget how far we’ve come in the last fifteen years. With women serving at sea in submarines and removing the limitations imposed by gender on berthing arrangements, we have effectively opened a whole talent pool that would otherwise have been excluded. To think that the US Navy is now learning from us is a real endorsement,” WO-N Holzberger said. 

The next annual meeting of the steering group will take place in Washington DC.

Imagery is available on the Navy Image Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20142289.