Sailor celebrates 30 years in Navy while deployed to the Middle East

Published on LEUT Sarah West (author), POIS Ollie Garside (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Newcastle (F06)

Chief Petty Officer Paddy McKeag (left) in the junior sailors cafe onboard HMAS Newcastle, with Lieutenant Commander Luke Miller and Petty Officer Gavin Downes. (photo: POIS Ollie Garside)
Chief Petty Officer Paddy McKeag (left) in the junior sailors cafe onboard HMAS Newcastle, with Lieutenant Commander Luke Miller and Petty Officer Gavin Downes.

Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Paddy McKeag says he has ‘done a lot’ in a Navy career spanning 30 years.

He’s gone swimming directly over the Marianas Trench, sipped coffee with Prince Charles and watched three of his ships be decommissioned (HMA Ships Canberra, Adelaide and Manoora).

True to form, the experienced Electronics Technician celebrated his three-decade anniversary in style – conducting counter terrorism operations in the Gulf of Aden, onboard the Australian warship HMAS Newcastle.  

CPO McKeag joined the Navy at 15 years old because he wanted to travel, get a trade and had family in the service.

“This is the best job I have ever had. Come to think of it – it’s the only job I have ever had,” CPO McKeag said.

“Seriously though, this has been an absolute dream job. If it was at all boring, I wouldn’t still be here,” he said.

In his 30 years, CPO McKeag has served in HMA Ships Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide, Manoora, and Newcastle. He is currently on his fifth deployment to the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO), and has also served in East Timor (1999), Fiji (1986), Timor Leste (2006) and on Operations WARDEN and RESOLUTE.

“So much has changed since I joined the Navy. I have gotten much older and have less hair and more weight. The only thing that has been constant is, in fact, change,” CPO McKeag said.

Three decades in the Navy has rewarded CPO McKeag with a lot of memories.

“Like sailing across the Atlantic Ocean in thick fog at 3am - it was low light and the sea state was zero. All I could hear was the gas turbines. That experience takes your mind to some interesting places,” he said.

“And, taking part in the Bicentennial Naval Salute in 1988. That was a great time to be a sailor,” he said.

CPO McKeag said he’s not ready to leave the Navy yet.

“I do want to be around for the 100th Anniversary of Anzac Day in 2015. I hope to be either in Gallipoli, or involved in the service at the MCG,” he said.

CPO McKeag’s shipmates held a small celebration onboard Newcastle, to mark his 30 year milestone.

Imagery is available on the Royal Australian Navy Media Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20130679.