Aviation excellence rewarded

This article has photo gallery Published on Ms Dallas McMaugh (author), LSIS Sarah Williams (photographer)

Location(s): Nowra, NSW

723 Squadrons, Able Seaman Aviation Technician Avionics Nicole Otte, uses a multimeter to conduct maintenance on a AS-350BA Squirrel helicopter.   (photo: LSIS Sarah Williams)
723 Squadrons, Able Seaman Aviation Technician Avionics Nicole Otte, uses a multimeter to conduct maintenance on a AS-350BA Squirrel helicopter.

Able Seaman Aviation Technician Avionics Nicole Otte from 723 Squadron has been recognised as a standout performer in aviation maintenance.

Nominated for the 2016 NSW Training Awards Apprentice of the Year for the Illawarra and South East region she was selected as a finalist for the award announced on 24 June.

Though unsuccessful in the top award, the Navy technician was celebrated with a certificate of excellence in vocational education and training.

The awards are presented annually with the aim of recognising outstanding achievement in the vocational education and training sector. 

She was nominated by the squadron's Unit Training Cell, by Leading Seaman Aviation Technician Avionics Quintin Clements who said Able Seaman Otte excelled in all areas of her training and work.

“Nicole really is an asset to the squadron through her positive work ethic, high standards, fantastic attitude and endless enthusiasm," he said.

"She makes a point of mastering all components of her role, consistently focuses on learning new skills and actively seeks additional tasking.

“Her enthusiasm and application can be seen in the fact that she completed her training journal, not just to an exceptional standard, but 14 weeks ahead of the expected completion date.”

The role of Avionics Technician was a complete change of direction from her original career path which was originally in the hospitality industry. 

Starting at the Nowra McDonalds when she was 18, she worked her way up to the position of Restaurant Manager before becoming Manager of the local Gloria Jeans café in 2003. 

The café is popular with personnel from the Naval Air Station at HMAS Albatross, and over time she got to know many of these patrons and enjoyed talking to them about their careers in Defence. 

In 2012 she decided it was time for a new career and new challenges, and enlisted in the Navy. 

Able Seaman Otte said the decision wasn’t made without some trepidation. 

“As a mature age student it was very daunting at first," she said.

"I hadn’t sat down and studied for quite a few years and when I started the avionics course it seemed like months of study and endless exams but I found I really enjoyed learning again and thrived on the theory side of my apprenticeship.”

 On completion of the theory component, she was presented with the Commanding Officer’s Award in recognition of her efforts and contributions during training and her determination and willingness tow work hard and selfless assistance to fellow students.

Able Seaman Otte said this was an extremely proud moment. 

“I felt incredibly grateful for being recognised for my work. I was also awarded the HMAS Nirimba Award for Excellence upon completion of initial employment training,” she said.

 On finishing the theory component, Able Seaman Otte was posted to 723 Squadron to complete her trade journal and carry out the practical component of her apprenticeship while working on the Squirrel helicopter.

“I think the reason I completed my journal ahead of time was my level of enthusiasm,” Able Seaman Otte said. 

“I hope that I am a role model for others in having shown that it is never too late and I also hope I inspire other women to consider completing an apprenticeship.

"One important thing I have learned is to never close your mind off to learning new skills and to embrace any changes within your workplace, even if it takes you out of your comfort zone.

"I’m extremely happy with myself for getting to where I am today and the opportunities the Navy has given me."

Able Seaman Otte doesn't underestimate the guidance she has received from people along the way.

"I first met Chief Petty Officers Andrew Rolfe and Rebecca Hyam when I was managing Gloria Jeans and they got me interested in joining the Navy and becoming an avionics technician. 

"They even organised a tour of 817 Squadron for me so I got to see the role first hand and the environment they work in," she said.

She said the next mentor was Leading Seaman Aviation Technician Avionics Justin Macey, in her first team at 723 Squadron. 

"He passed on the importance of doing our job correctly from day one and because of his wealth of knowledge and skill he ensured I gained the knowledge needed to complete day to day tasks, complete my apprenticeship journal ahead of time and always strive to be better in my job and life itself.”

She said she is frequently asked 'Why now at your age? Why the ADF?' And her answer is “Why not?'.

“I am over 40 and it gave me a whole new perspective on life and has been an excellent challenge."

She said that when she applied for the apprenticeship she wasn’t technically minded and had never been exposed to the work involved. But she has excelled and achieved so much more than she expected. 

"I have received a great qualification, have an awesome job with the opportunity to go further so to be nominated for this award is just more icing on a fantastic cake.”