Making history - RAAF officer training to become an Officer of the Day onboard Navy ship

Published on LEUT Emily Kennedy (author), ABIS Chantell Bianchi (photographer)

Topic(s): Training, HMAS Canberra (L02)

Assistant Officer of the Day, Flight Lieutenant Tim Clark, pipes a report over the main broadcast system during a damage control exercise aboard NUSHIP Canberra. (photo: ABIS Chantell Bianchi)
Assistant Officer of the Day, Flight Lieutenant Tim Clark, pipes a report over the main broadcast system during a damage control exercise aboard NUSHIP Canberra.

A Royal Australian Air Force officer is training to be first ever ‘Officer of the Day’ on a Navy ship - and not just any ship, but Navy’s newest and largest platform.

Posted to Landing Helicopter Dock NUSHIP Canberra as a qualified Joint Battlefield Airspace Controller, Flight Lieutenant Tim Clark had not bargained to be undertaking Officer of the Day training so soon.

The Officer of the Day is responsible for the safety and security of the ship and personnel while the ship is berthed alongside in harbour and leads a duty watch team of 24 personnel.

Flight Lieutenant Clark got his first taste of this training when the ship was in the dry dock in Sydney, where the focus was damage control. Damage Control, or ‘DC’, is about responding to fires, floods or gas alarm detectors on the ship.

“Until very recently, when someone said ‘DC’ I thought ‘dangerous cargo’ - now DC has taken on a new meaning altogether,” Flight Lieutenant Clark said.

“The Officer of the Day training is very specific to Navy and unique to anything I had done before. The approach is very different - in the RAAF I am used to providing information or support to ensure pilots or aircrew can handle an emergency themselves, whereas in the Navy, you are leading a team and dealing with the incident together right there on the ship,” he said.

One of the Duty Watch Command Teams close up in Damage Control Central to run a dutywatch exercise Lieutenant Jazz Kastaniotis (second from right) talks through the Damage Control Central aspects with Engineering Officer of the Day, Petty Officer Andrew Copeland (right).

One of the Duty Watch Command Teams close up in Damage Control Central to run a dutywatch exercise Lieutenant Jazz Kastaniotis (second from right) talks through the Damage Control Central aspects with Engineering Officer of the Day, Petty Officer Andrew Copeland (right).

Flight Lieutenant Clark said the combination of learning Navy damage control terminology and ship’s routines as well as the different intent of damage control procedures meant the training was a steep learning curve.

“Up to about one month prior to the Duty Watch training onboard Canberra, I had never done any damage control training. It was a good opportunity to apply what I had learned during the recent Combat Survivability course at the Royal Australian Navy School of Survivability and Ship’s Safety,” he said.

Flight Lieutenant Clark is part of one of the four initial duty watch teams who undertook the intensive Duty Watch training program during the ship’s recent commercial docking in Sydney.

Navy, Army and RAAF members make up Canberra’s ship’s company of around 380 people including three RAAF Joint Battle Space Air Controllers.

“Joint Battle Space Air Controllers will be responsible for a range of services to aircraft operating from and with Canberra. We will provide radar information services, air traffic information, and airspace activation and deactivation for example,” Flight Lieutenant Clark said.

“I have a range of extra duties of which Officer of the Day is just one.

“I am looking forward to completing first of class flight trials and moving on to when the ship is capable of conducting large scale amphibious operations and humanitarian and disaster relief operations,” he said.

Flight Lieutenant Clark was a volunteer for the posting to Canberra and held the required experience and qualifications for the job.

“I have served in a joint environment before at Headquarters Joint Operations Command as well as on operational deployments to Timor-Leste, Iraq and Afghanistan,” Flight Lieutenant Clark said.

“I am very excited to be part of the team brining this new and impressive capability into service,” he said.

Canberra is the largest ship ever built for the Royal Australian Navy and is the first of two LHDs built for the Australian Defence Force.

These 27,000 tonne ships will be able to land a force of over 2000 personnel by helicopter and water craft, along with all their weapons, ammunition, vehicles and stores and will be capable of conducting large scale humanitarian and disaster relief missions.