Mark Butler has led a rich and varied life since leaving Kingston High School in Blackmans Bay, Tasmania; but through it all, the Royal Australian Navy was always in the back of his mind as a potential career path.
Now a Leading Seaman Communication and Information Systems sailor, Mark is part of the crew of HMAS Success, which is currently in the midst of a six month deployment to the Middle East region as part of Operation MANITOU.
This operation is the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to counter-terrorism and maritime security in the region, and the work of Leading Seaman Butler and his department is crucial to Success’ operational engagement.
“I joined the Navy for a variety of reasons, but certainly one of them was to play a role in the operational aspects of a warship at sea,” Leading Seaman Butler said.
“This deployment has given me and the rest of the team the opportunity to fulfil this goal, utilising our skills to assist in coordinating a large variety of ships in their engagement with Success.”
A former Police Officer in the Tasmanian Police Force, Leading Seaman Butler, 36, came to an epiphany at the ripe old age of 28, and made the seemingly radical choice to change careers. Clearly he had the need to serve, leaving one career path where he served the people of Tasmania, and moving into another to serve the people of Australia.
It is a career that has also seen him renew his deep affinity for the ocean, having been a keen racer of yachts in his youth, both along the Derwent with the Derwent Racing Squadron, and with the Royal Yacht Club, during which time he participated with some success in state and national sailing championships. Sailing on Success around the seas of the Middle East is an entirely different experience of course.
Leading Seaman Butler has previously been in a similar position to that in which he is now, having been part of a deployment onboard HMAS Stuart as part of Operation SLIPPER, but this second deployment has provided him a new perspective.
“Seeing just how versatile this supply ship is and knowing how vital a link we are in the support of ships patrolling this part of the world has really broadened my appreciation of how the Navy operates,” he said.
“Having been here on a frigate before, I had some idea of what to expect from the trip; but the broad capability of Success has really provided plenty of variety in our evolutions and kept us all on our toes.”
There is another key difference on this occasion, with Leading Seaman Butler having left behind his wife Brooke and two-year old daughter Isabelle. Leaving behind a young family for such a long period is of course not easy, but something many Australian Defence Force members have to do, and his family is extremely supportive of his career and service.
Success is involved in Centenary of Anzac celebrations on both the Greek Island of Lemnos and in Athens—a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one that will have special significance for Leading Seaman Butler.
His great-grandfather served in the First World War as an artilleryman, serving in the 10th Field Artillery stationed in Belgium. Ashton Butler saw battle on the Western Front in 1917 and 1918, including the major battles in and around the Hindenberg Line in France, before he fell foul of a gas attack near the village of Rouelles and was sent home to Australia.
Mark’s grandfather Maxwell also served, joining the Navy during the Second World War and being part of the commissioning crew of the famed HMAS Sydney II; fortunately for Maxwell and his future family, he was posted off the ship just prior to Sydney’s ill-fated final mission.
Leading Seaman Butler will continue to play an important role in Success’ sustained mission in the region, and the ship will no doubt maintain her status as an invaluable asset to the Combined Task Forces in the area post their commemorative duties.