Lieutenant Steve Witzand is embarked in HMAS Arunta on his first operational deployment as the Deputy Weapons Electrical Engineer Officer.
Part of the 191 member crew deployed as part of Operation MANITOU, Arunta is contributing to the Combined Maritime Forces’ counter terrorism, counter piracy and narcotics interdiction task forces in the Middle East region.
After graduating high school from John Paul College, Frankston, in 2004 Lieutenant Witzand had little knowledge of what it meant to be in the Navy, but was keen to pursue a job as an engineer.
“To be honest back then I had no idea what I wanted to do in terms of a career and the Navy seemed like a good interim for a stable job while I planned out my future,” he said.
That was just under 12 years ago and since then he’s graduated from the Australian Defence Force Academy, played Aussie Rules Football for the Navy at Subiaco Oval and painted schools in Samoa. He’s also sailed through South and North East Asia conducting military exercises with foreign navies, and has no intention of leaving the Navy any time soon.
“One of perks I love about my job is the variety of sports I have been able to participate in throughout my career,” Lieutenant Witzand said.
“Having spent nine years playing football for the Seaford Tigers Football Club prior to joining the Navy, I was concerned I might have to sacrifice my love of sport to pursue a career.
“But with the Navy’s support, I have been able to play competitive football, volleyball and even represented the Navy in Japan for snowboarding.”
Lieutenant Witzand is responsible for the day-to-day management of Arunta’s sensor, communication and weapon systems. He forms part of the team that has been through a rigorous training regime to ensure that the ship is mission capable, and prepared for the unexpected, during her deployment.
“I am graced with an amazing Weapons Department onboard who work tirelessly to ensure our systems are maintained and operational at all times.
“We form part of the broader team that is HMAS Arunta, which has one of best crews I have worked with in my career,” Lieutenant Witzand said.
Prior to the deployment he was awarded his Engineer Charge Qualification recognising his level of knowledge as an engineer in the Navy, making him eligible for Chartered Engineer Status through Engineers Australia.
“Obtaining my Charge Qualification was a significant milestone in my career and is something I have been working towards since I joined Arunta early in 2015,” he said.
“I am now able to take on more responsibility on-board the ship, which will not only help further my career but provide flexibility with an additional qualified engineer during the deployment.”
Back home Steve’s wife Rachel and one year old daughter Daphne eagerly count down the days until he returns.
“Without a doubt, the hardest part of this deployment is being away from my family, but the Navy is pretty accommodating these days in terms of communication back home, and my wife sends a good three to four photos of Daphne each day over email, so that definitely helps.
“I cannot wait to get home to my family, but am focused now on the deployment ahead and ensuring our sensors, communication and weapons systems are readily available at all times.”
Arunta deployed in November from Garden Island, Rockingham, Western Australia. Arunta is the 64th Australian Navy ship to be deployed to the region since 1990.