The Royal Australian Navy’s Sub Lieutenant David Hamilton has returned to Australia after six months embedded with the French Navy.
He was the first junior officer to participate in the French Navy’s Jeanne d’Arc (JDA) deployment - an annual training mission that serves as the culmination of three years of training at the French Naval Academy.
Sub Lieutenant Hamilton, currently conducting phase two of his Marine Engineering training, joined LHD Tonnerre in January this year to deploy in company with the frigate La Fayette.
Departing and returning to Toulon, France, the mission transited the Suez Canal, the coast of East Africa, the Atlantic (twice), the coast of South America and the Eastern seaboard of the Continental United States of America.
Various port visits were conducted, including to cities in Africa, South America and the Caribbean.
The mission provided a summative training program for 130 junior officers following completion of their studies at the French Naval Academy.
High levels of French language ability are required to be selected for this program, and after five months at sea, Sub Lieutenant Hamilton’s language skills had improved immensely.
Having an Australian embedded also served an important role in further developing the increasingly close relationship between the French and Australian navies, who are undertaking more sophisticated activities with each other.
Improving understanding is also an important step in the push for greater collaboration and cooperation between the Australian and French Armed Forces.
Sub Lieutenant Hamilton’s highlights of the mission included serving in Tonnerre for the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief mission to Mozambique in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth, and his visit to the European Space Agency in Cayenne, French Guinea.
He also said he appreciated the opportunity to understand the French language and culture, and to make lasting friendships across the world.
“I encourage all future Marine Engineers to look at this trip as a possibility for them.
“While learning the language is hard, the training mission is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Sub Lieutenant Hamilton said, noting that a lack of French-speaking applicants is one of the issues the Royal Australian Navy will need to overcome in the future.
Mission Jeanne d’Arc is scheduled to travel to the Indo-Pacific region in 2020 and a number of activities are planned to maximise the opportunity to work with significant French Units.
A second engineer is also likely to be embedded with the ships to build on Sub Lieutenant Hamilton’s experiences.