After 42 years, he’s out…almost

Published on LEUT Tony White (author), LSIS Kayla Jackson (photographer)

Chief Petty Officer Boatswain Rod Waites retires after 43 years service in the Royal Australian Navy. (photo: LSIS Kayla Jackson)
Chief Petty Officer Boatswain Rod Waites retires after 43 years service in the Royal Australian Navy.

On Good Friday this year, Chief Petty Officer Boatswain Rod Waites will be leaving the Permanent Navy after 42 years of service. However his only plans for retirement so far are to “do a bit of Reserve time.” 

Chief Waites originally came from the Broken Hill region and boarded at the Allison House Bush Children’s Hostel while he went to school at Broken Hill High School. A couple of his school mates had joined the Navy and Chief Waites liked the sound of the stories they were telling him. After a brief spell labouring, he joined the Navy as an ‘adult’ at the age of 17 years and one month on 28 April 1975. To put that in context, it was the day before the United States began its evacuation of Saigon in Operation FREQUENT WIND which marked the end of US involvement in the Vietnam War.

In the 42 years since 1975, Chief Waites has seen a lot of the world and enjoyed many postings. For him, however, two stand out from the rest. 

On a trip to the States he managed enough to time off for a road trip over to Nashville and then as a senior sailor, in what was probably a first for Navy, served as the Executive Officer on board an Attack Class Patrol Boat.

“Admittedly it was no longer a Patrol Boat and had been reassigned as General Purpose Vessel Ardent,” said Chief Waites.

GPV Ardent was used as a navigation training vessel and Chief Waites considers his four years on her as the 2-IC as his most enjoyable in the Navy.

“It’s a pretty rare thing for a Chief Petty Officer to effectively be the XO and I would have to rate that as the highlight of my time,” he said.

Chief Waites has spent more than four decades practising, using and training basic seamanship skills that go back centuries and he reckons he could probably braid up a rope in his sleep. He is looking forward to maintaining his links with all the friends he served with across those decades. 

“I worked out the other day that of the 28 staff under me, I have been a senior sailor longer than 23 of them have been alive, so I have been around a while.” 

“Next year on Anzac Day I might be marching in my suit but I will be looking forward to catching up with my mates, especially those in the HMAS Perth Association. “

”I’ll be based in Mudgee with Megan, my partner of 30 years, and we have a lot of family up that way. My only plan so far is to have the occasional beer and do a bit of time in the Navy Reserves,” said Chief Waites.