Navy Commander back where it all began

Published on SBLT Nancy Cotton (author), WOIS Shane Cameron (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Moreton, Qld

Topic(s): Australian Navy Cadets, HMAS Moreton

Commanding Officer HMAS Moreton, Commander Gerald Savvakis, poses with the life ring of his former Australian Navy Cadet unit, Training Ship Gayundah. (photo: WOIS Shane Cameron)
Commanding Officer HMAS Moreton, Commander Gerald Savvakis, poses with the life ring of his former Australian Navy Cadet unit, Training Ship Gayundah.

When Queensland kid Gerald Savvakis joined the Australian Navy Cadets, he never imagined he would one day return to where it all began as a fully-fledged Navy Commander.

It’s often a Navy Cadet’s dream to join the Royal Australian Navy, serve in a warship and see the world. Gerald Savvakis made the dream a reality.

Now, having achieved the rank of Commander, he serves as the Commanding Officer of HMAS Moreton in Brisbane.

In the late 1970s, Cadet Savvakis was a Signalman and attained the rank of Cadet Leading Seaman.

With a vision of a career in the Navy, he joined as a Junior Recruit through HMAS Leeuwin.

The skills he had acquired as a Navy Cadet provided him with a solid foundation, but he could never have predicted how his career would play out.

Born and raised in Brisbane, Commander Savvakis has a long affinity with South East Queensland. To find himself returning to the area as its Senior Naval Officer is a unique experience and he feels it’s almost too perfect to be a coincidence - it seems more pre-ordained.

Gerald Savvakis served at sea as a Signalman in HMA Ships Tobruk (II), Stalwart (II), Jervis Bay, Darwin and Parramatta (IV), before returning to shore as Commander Australian Naval Support Command at HMAS Kuttabul and HMAS Moreton.

A break in his career allowed time to study and start a family, and he then re-joined the Navy in 1996 to undertake the New Entry Officers’ Course at HMAS Creswell, pursuing a career as a Seaman Officer.

Commander Savvakis remembers seeing the Commanding Officer of HMAS Moreton when he was a Cadet, and thinking “he must be important!”

“If I could now stand beside a young version of myself, remembering that, and seeing where I am now, it’s just unbelievable,” Commander Savvakis said.

The Australian Navy Cadets provides young people with a structured program focussed on leadership, team building and self-development. It plays an influential role in their lives, especially for those pursuing a career in the Royal Australian Navy.

“I cannot understate the affect Navy Cadet Instructors can have on a young person,” Commander Savvakis said.

“They instil values, responsibility and a strong sense of community.

“They are important in shaping the lives of Cadets, which prepares them going forward as young adults.

“A significant mentor for me as a Cadet was Australian Navy Cadets Captain Ian Fraser. I now attend functions representing the Navy and Ian is often there representing Cadets.

“As a Cadet I looked up to him, he instilled values as a mentor and was instrumental in where I am today.

“I’m proud of my time at Training Ship Gayundah and what that represents to the Navy with its rich history.

“Cadets needs Instructors of good standing, and to some degree a broad understanding of the Royal Australian Navy, to impart that knowledge; otherwise it would be just another youth scheme.

“I appreciate attracting adult members to regularly give their time and pass on their experience and knowledge is a challenge, however good instructors are critical for Cadets of the future,” Commander Savvakis said.

Australian Navy Cadets are currently seeking Cadets and Cadet Instructors. For more information visit: https://www.navycadets.gov.au.