WO-N: Bushfire relief capability possible thanks to engineering contributions

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Jessica Craig (author), LSIS Christopher Szumlanski (photographer), ABIS Benjamin Ricketts (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Kuttabul, NSW

Topic(s): Navy Engineering, Fleet Support Unit - South East, Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST

Warrant Officer of the Navy, Warrant Officer Deb Butterworth, OAM, CSM and Bar, shakes hands to Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Nathan Spilling, along with other members of Fleet Support Unit - South East in gratitude for their participation in Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20 over the Reduced Activity Period. (photo: LSIS Chris Szumlanski)
Warrant Officer of the Navy, Warrant Officer Deb Butterworth, OAM, CSM and Bar, shakes hands to Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Nathan Spilling, along with other members of Fleet Support Unit - South East in gratitude for their participation in Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20 over the Reduced Activity Period.

Royal Australian Navy engineers, contractors and their families who cut short their Christmas break to support Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20 were recently recognised for their integral contribution.

Warrant Officer of the Navy (WO-N) Deb Butterworth and Command Warrant Officer - Navy Engineering, Warrant Officer Christopher Garner, recently visited Fleet Support Unit - South East, Amphibious Afloat Support Group and Fleet Engineering to thank those involved in preparing HMA Ships Adelaide and Canberra for sea.

“On behalf of the Chief of Navy, thank you for your support, professionalism and absolute top work,” the Warrant Officer of the Navy said.

“The collaboration between uniformed personnel, contractors and the ship’s staff has been terrific.

“We’ve all been focussed on the same thing - working to save families in our nation,” she said.

Fleet Support Unit - South East, Amphibious Afloat Support Group and Fleet Engineering personnel worked around the clock to get the Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs) ready for sea.

Adelaide was recalled to join the bushfire relief effort and support the evacuation of people from fire affected communities shortly after New Year, with ship’s company, Navy engineers and contractors working to prepare the ship to sail on 4 January.

Forty Fleet Support Unit technicians were recalled to get Canberra from being in the middle of a maintenance period at 28 days’ notice to sail, to a seaworthy state that would allow her to support the mission if required.

Facing hundreds of hours of work and an extensive list of tasks, under the direction of Chief Petty Officer Michael Heath, the team was able to complete the tasks within an unprecedented three days, allowing Canberra to be poised to go for any calls for assistance.

“Without people with the experience and the ship’s knowledge and fortitude, there is no way we would’ve been able to get those tasks done, the team really pulled together,” Chief Petty Officer Heath said.

“It is a credit to every single Able and Leading Seaman who came off their leave to push through what would usually be hundreds of man hours within just three days.”

Tasks included LED lighting and hose change outs, an electrical audit and spray taping, which were required to get Canberra out of the maintenance period and certified for sea.

Warrant Officer of the Navy Butterworth praised the dedication and drive of Chief Petty Officer Heath and the team, especially the number who had posted out of Fleet Support Unit but voluntarily came back to assist.

“The ships can’t do what they do without your, and your families, support, which was especially pivotal when giving up what we would usually consider a sacrosanct reduced activity period, so thanks to you and your families for the effort,” Warrant Officer of the Navy Butterworth said.

Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20 imagery is available on the Defence Image Gallery:
https://images.defence.gov.au/S20192970.