New Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Officers ready to lead the way

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Ryan Zerbe (author), ABIS Thomas Sawtell (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Penguin, NSW

Topic(s): Clearance Diving Teams, Graduation

Graduating members of the Clearance Diving Officer Course 36 at HMAS Penguin, Sydney. From left: Lieutenant Matthew Smith; Lieutenant Samantha McKay; and Lieutenant Joseph Woods. (photo: ABIS Thomas Sawtell)
Graduating members of the Clearance Diving Officer Course 36 at HMAS Penguin, Sydney. From left: Lieutenant Matthew Smith; Lieutenant Samantha McKay; and Lieutenant Joseph Woods.

Three officers have graduated this month from the Navy’s most mentally and physically challenging specialist program, the Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Officer course.

After 78 weeks of technical training in a range of disciplines the officers can now be employed across the globe delivering a maritime warfighting effect in the joint environment.

Lieutenants Samantha McKay, Matthew Smith and Joe Woods were awarded their qualification badges by the Fleet Commander, Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead, himself a Mine Clearance Diving Officer (MCDO) and head of the Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving profession.

Each will take up leadership positions within the Clearance Diving Teams and the Mine Hunter Coastal, HMAS Yarra.

Acting Officer-in-Charge of the ADF Diving School, Lieutenant Matthew Rayner, said the graduates had worked brilliantly as a team and excelled in all aspects of their warfare training. He noted that the course is a challenge, but the graduates are a symbol of how team work and resilience were key to achieving a positive outcome.

“The mental resilience and maturity required to make it as an MCDO should not be understated,” Lieutenant Rayner said.

“Our three newest MCDOs have proven that not only can they meet the physical demands that come with working day or night, in depths of more than 50 metres, but that they can also lead a team while doing so.”

“They will lead sailors in implementing mine counter measures, underwater damage repair, expeditionary reconnaissance and clearance, and explosive ordnance disposal which is a significant responsibility.”

Lieutenants Woods and McKay will join Clearance Diving Teams One and Four, while Lieutenant Smith will join the Minehunter HMAS Yarra.

For Lieutenant Smith, becoming an MCDO has been a career-long ambition.

“I joined the Navy in 2010 and becoming an MCDO has been a goal since then,” Lieutenant Smith said.

“The Expeditionary Reconnaissance and Clearance phase is definitely is the most mentally and physically draining part of the course, but having passion for the job and the camaraderie you build helps when you’re training over such long hours. If it wasn’t tough, it wouldn’t be worth doing.”

“I’m looking forward to joining Yarra and becoming part of the ship’s Diving Team.”

Formally established almost 70 years ago, the Navy’s Clearance Diving Branch has seen operational service around the world including in Vietnam, East Timor, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan; and on Counter-Terrorist service in Australia.