Turning the tables on family service

This article has photo gallery Published on LSIS Helen Frank (author), POIS Yuri Ramsey (photographer)

Location(s): Sydney, New South Wales

Topic(s): HMAS Canberra (L02), Exercise RIMPAC

Able Seaman Marine Technician Madeleine Woolmer and her family recreate an event 20 years earlier where her father, Brian returned from RIMPAC in HMAS Newcastle. (photo: POIS Yuri Ramsey)
Able Seaman Marine Technician Madeleine Woolmer and her family recreate an event 20 years earlier where her father, Brian returned from RIMPAC in HMAS Newcastle.

A wharfside welcome home turned back the clock for one father and daughter recently with HMAS Canberra's return to Sydney from RIMPAC 2016
 
In 1996, then Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Brian Woolmer stepped off his own ship, HMAS Newcastle, to hug his daughter on his return from that year's RIMPAC. 
 
The roles were reversed 20 years later as Brian waited on the wharf for his daughter Able Seaman Marine Technician Madeleine Woolmer return.
 
Able Seaman Woolmer was only 11 months old when her dad returned from RIMPAC.
 
“I remember picking Maddy up in my arms and she pushed away from me as she didn’t know who I was,” Mr Woolmer said.
 
“My wife had to put her arm on Maddy’s back for reassurance as she worked out who I was.
 
“I had left when she was about five months. Maddy turns 21 next month so her return is almost 20 years to the day that I returned.”
 
Able Seaman Woolmer is a fourth-generation sailor following in the footsteps of her great-uncles who served during the Second World War; her grandfather who served during the Korean War in HMAS Australia, and her uncles and her dad.
 
“I joined the Navy not just because of the family influence,” Able Seaman Woolmer said.
 
“I liked the sound of the lifestyle and I wanted to be able to look after myself and earn my own money.”
 
Able Seaman Woolmer signed up in August 2014, just before her 19th birthday.
 
She monitors engineering systems onboard Canberra, including propulsion, electrical and auxiliary. 
 
“I was initially posted to Canberra for about 10 months for training but I now have a two-year posting,” she said.
 
“During RIMPAC I was concentrating on getting my qualifications and training done, which I have now completed.
 
“I’m comfortable here and I have a good group of work friends which is great.” 
 
Able Seaman Woolmer said she enjoyed RIMPAC and the chance to see Hawaii. 
 
“I was able to take a look over the Chinese ships and some of the American ships during the open day, which was interesting,” she said.
 
“It is good to see their ships and the different ways they operate.”
 
Although she loves the Navy lifestyle, Able Seaman Woolmer said being away from friends and family was hard.
 
“This has been my longest time away from my family so far,” she said.
 
“But it is much easier to stay in touch these days with email, Facebook and other social media.”
 
Mr Woolmer, who was in the Navy for 22 years and left as a Warrant Officer in 2003, said he was proud his daughter had followed in his footsteps.