It was through a family friend, a Salvation Army chaplain based at HMAS Leeuwin in the 1970s, that Chief Petty Officer Electronic Technician-Communications Judy Lambert first considered a career in the Royal Australian Navy.
“He often mentioned his lads and told tales of a great life and adventure,” Chief Petty Officer Lambert recalled.
“I had an after-school job as a ‘checkout chick’ which was fun but it was not something I wanted as a career. I enlisted as soon as I completed Year 12 at Morley Senior High School, in Perth, Western Australia. It was a great opportunity which I have never regretted,” she said.
After serving 22 years in first the Women’s Royal Australian Navy (WRAN) and then the Royal Australian Navy, Chief Petty Officer Lambert transferred to Reserve in March 1999 but continued to work full-time.
“I never sourced any permanent civilian employment elsewhere, only casual work, so I could continue my Reserve service,” she said.
She admitted she has always enjoyed working in a mainly male-dominated environment though entering their traditional domain had its challenges.
“When I joined there were very few females in the technical world and my first posting to the Teletype Workshop in HMAS Harman was certainly an eye opener.
“I was in a minority group where my expectations were definitely not met. It was learn by yourself by any means possible as my male counterparts had no intention of providing any assistance.
“It was a slow process but they eventually came round which made it easier for other girls joining the workshop,” she said.
At one stage the unit comprised all females except for the male Petty Officer in charge.
“We did have some great times and got up to some pranks which would not meet Work Health and Safety standards these days - jousting; with broom sticks, on a trolley with very wonky wheels!” she said with a smile.
“My family were always proud and very supportive of my decision to join and continue serving in the Navy," she said.
Chief Petty Officer Lambert married a ‘stoker’ (Marine Technician) in 1987 which brought new challenges.
“He spent a lot of time at sea and was keen to further his career but there were few opportunities to be posted together and lots of stumbling blocks.
“It proved difficult to have a satisfying family life once we had children. Today the Defence Force is better in the sharing and caring of married, service couples,” she said.
Chief Petty Officer Lambert said she was always given the chance to complete necessary courses and equipment training except for one occasion.
“The only time I felt disadvantaged was when I was competing for a more senior course. Several aviation technicians had swapped over to mainstream electronics and this added quite a few extra personnel to the promotion roster which put my career on hold for a few years,” she said.
“Being a ‘three badge’ (12 years) Leading Seaman was not part of my big picture and the hope of becoming a senior sailor was not looking good at the time,” she said.
“I finally completed the necessary phase in 1989.”
Chief Petty Officer Lambert said her greatest achievement was being temporarily promoted to Warrant Officer in 2001 and posted to HMAS Coonawarra as the Senior Technical Officer to shut down the Naval Communication Station in Darwin and Humpty Doo Transmitting Station, although she admits to feeling sad to see the stations close and people leaving.
Chief Petty Officer Lambert is currently posted to Training Centre - North (Darwin) which provides specific training advice and assistance for the Armidale Class Patrol Boat crews in Darwin and Cairns as well as HMAS Coonawarra and visiting units.
As the unit's Training Development Officer, Chief Petty Officer Lambert oversees course coordination and all the associated administration duties.
With 2014 marking the 40th anniversary of the first WRAN Electronic Technician–Communications intake, Chief Petty Officer Lambert reflected on her own career and noted the far wider opportunities available in 2015 for women interested in a technical trade in Navy.
“The best part of my career has been the people I have met. A few of us former WRAN communicators went on a cruise last August finishing up with a big reunion in Sydney. Even though some of us had not seen each other for decades, it felt like just yesterday that we were all together.
“My advice to any young woman interested in enlisting is to join with an open mind and with no expectations. Decide if you really want to be in the Navy and make it your family. Follow our values, recognise and accept our traditions and you can look forward to a satisfying career," she said.
For more information on the number of unique career paths offered in Navy, visit http://www.defencejobs.gov.au/navy.