From Nelson Bay to Rim of the Pacific

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

Location(s): Honolulu, Hawaii

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

Seaman Boatswains Mate Jack Bellingham on the flight deck onboard HMAS Canberra.  (photo: POIS Yuri Ramsey)
Seaman Boatswains Mate Jack Bellingham on the flight deck onboard HMAS Canberra.

Not wanting to settle for a nine-to-five job, Jack Bellingham decided to take a leaf from his father's book and join the Royal Australian Navy.

So three weeks after his seventeenth birthday, he packed his bags, waved goodbye and set off for Recruit School in HMAS Cerberus, Victoria.

"My dad has been in the Navy for 38 years and I wanted to follow in his footsteps," he said.

"I wanted to do something different, to leave Nelson Bay, in New South Wales, and do a job that not everyone can do."

Eighteen months later, Seaman Boatswains Mate Jack Bellingham is an integral member of the crew of HMAS Canberra, one of Navy's biggest and newest warships, sailing back from Hawaii after participating in the world's largest maritime exercise, Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC).

Canberra was one of 45 warships, five submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel from 26 nations which took part in the biennial exercise.

"Seeing all the other nation's ships, what they are capable of and their weapon systems was a great experience," he said.

RIMPAC, which this year ran from 30 June to 4 August, enhances interoperability between Pacific Rim armed forces and promotes stability in the region.

The exercise fosters and sustains relationships critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans.

Canberra has a permanent crew of 400. The amphibious ship is capable of embarking more than 1,000 troops and can land them ashore by helicopter or landing craft.

Boatswains Mates are critical to the everyday operation of Navy warships. They are skilled in rope and anchor work, small boat handling, berthing and towing, helmsmanship and refuelling at sea. They are also close range weapons specialists, proficient in pistols, rifles, shotguns and machine guns; and operating remotely fired gun systems.

Seaman Bellingham is also a member of the ship's standing sea fire and emergency party.

"We are the first to respond to an incident on board, such as a fire or flood," he said.

"We get there first to save our shipmates and the ship."

Seaman Bellingham is also the ship's diver, and can be called on to inspect the hull and propellers for damage or remove debris.

Canberra is expected back in Australia at the end of August when Seaman Bellingham plans to catch up with his family and girlfriend.

It will only be a short time at home for the crew as the ship leaves for Townsville in September to take part in Exercise SEA RAIDER, which will test and evaluate Canberra's preparedness for amphibious operations.