Senior sailor’s star performance

Published on LCDR Fiona Southwood (author), MAJ Chris Linden (author), ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation MANITOU, Federation Star, HMAS Newcastle (F06)

Chief Petty Officer Paul O'Keefe celebrates his 40th year in the Royal Australian Navy in the Junior Sailors Cafe aboard HMAS Newcastle in the Middle East region. (photo: ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez)
Chief Petty Officer Paul O'Keefe celebrates his 40th year in the Royal Australian Navy in the Junior Sailors Cafe aboard HMAS Newcastle in the Middle East region.
Forty years of dedicated service by Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Paul ‘Jock’ O’Keefe was recently celebrated by the crew of HMAS Newcastle, deployed to the Middle East region.
 
Newcastle recognised Chief Petty Officer O’Keefe’s achievement with a cake, made specially to order by the ship’s chefs, and dinner in the Captain’s cabin.
 
The 40-year mark also means he is eligible for his fifth clasp to his Defence Long Service Medal, more commonly referred to as the Federation Star.
 
The occasion was made even more special, by a touching letter of congratulations from Chief Petty Officer O’Keefe’s wife, which was read out by members of the Engineering Department.
 
The Marine Technicians on board also presented him with a framed copy of the Navy Newspaper published on the date he joined the Royal Australian Navy – 23 August 1977.
 
Chief Petty Officer O’Keefe said it was a wonderful surprise.
 
“The letter said how proud she and our family are of me and my achievements,” he said.
 
“It shows why after so many years together you can still be made to feel amazed and thankful for the people you love.”
 
Chief Petty Officer O’Keefe has served at sea for 25 years and has been deployed on Operations MANITOU, RESOLUTE, SLIPPER, CATALYST and WARDEN.
 
He has served in HMA Ships Torrens, and then Canberra, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, and Newcastle—each on multiple occasions, serving in all but one of the Royal Australian Navy's Adelaide class frigates.
 
“I have been asked ‘how could you the same job for so long,’ I reply ‘I haven’t’,” he said.
 
“Over my time I have been under instruction, I have been an instructor.
“I have spent time ashore and I’ve spent time at sea.
“I have been a junior sailor and I have been a divisional senior sailor.
“I have visited over 100 different cities and towns in over 40 countries.
“I didn’t join the Navy as a Chief Petty Officer I did my time and put in the hard yards.
 
“I learned to love the job I do, but it could not have been possible without all the people I have known over this time.”
 
Chief Petty Officer O’Keefe’s advice for young sailors is to make the most of every moment in the Navy.
 
“You are in the Navy at a very exciting time with new assets coming on line and different career paths becoming available.
 
“Enjoy your time; it goes faster than you think.
 
“Never be afraid to ask questions, nobody knows everything, even Chiefs - but I didn’t say that!” he said.
 
Chief Petty Officer O’Keefe received a further surprise a few days later by the physical presentation of his Federation Star by Commander Joint Task Force 633, Major General John Frewen when he embarked overnight in Newcastle for a visit.