As HMAS Darwin heads towards being decommissioned in December, her Commanding Officer, Commander Phillip Henry, has the privilege of having served the longest time at the helm.
Commander Henry took command from Captain Terrence Morrison in June 2015 and will complete a two and half years in the top job.
Originally hailing from New Zealand, Commander Henry joined the Royal New Zealand Navy in 1989 before electing to switch to the Australian Navy in 2003, where he has since served as the Executive Officer onboard HMA Ships Melbourne, Adelaide (frigate), and Sirius.
“I was just happy to get the tap on the shoulder to take command of a major Australian Navy warship,” Commander Henry said.
“Everything else was a bonus!”
Also joining Darwin at around the same time were Marine Engineering Officer, Lieutenant Commander Trevor Henderson and Weapons Electrical Engineering Officer, Lieutenant Commander Jason O’Gorman.
Both will decommission the ship with Commander Henry – having also been the longest serving engineering officers in the ship’s history.
When this team joined the ship in 2015, Darwin was looking at almost six months of intense training, incorporating unit and mission readiness work-up periods leading up to her Middle East deployment in early 2016.
“It was the start of a daunting period where every member of the senior command team was newly posted to Darwin,” Commander Henry said.
“Over the ensuing months, as we worked and trained together, backed by a highly capable and enthusiastic crew, we moulded into an effective team, which has continued to this day.”
Following her successful Operation SLIPPER deployment, Darwin provided humanitarian assistance and disaster relief at Kaikoura in New Zealand following a large earthquake under Operation AHWINA.
“We were there for the New Zealand Navy’s International Fleet Review, but were quickly diverted after the earthquake struck,” Lieutenant Commander Henderson said.
“I have the best memories from that experience watching the crew get ashore and pitch in to help the isolated Kaikoura community and the truly heart-warming response from the people there.”
Since that time, Darwin has been heavily involved in task group development with the amphibious vessels HMA Ships Canberra and Adelaide as the centrepiece.
These exercises culminated in the Indo-Pacific Endeavour Joint Task Group deployment to the region.
“Darwin has provided escort for Adelaide for most of this deployment, and it has been a real pleasure working with her as we conduct regional engagement with our northern neighbours,” Commander Henry said.
As she moves towards her eventual decommissioning, Commander Henry and his team are looking back on their achievements.
“At every stage, Darwin has been able to successfully achieve every mission she has been tasked to do, without exception,” Lieutenant Commander Henderson said.
“It’s an impressive record, and in no small part due to the resourceful crew that has time and time again put in when needed to ensure we get the job done.”
On decommissioning, Commander Henry will be promoted to Captain and assume his new post in Canberra as the Deputy Director of Navy Personnel and Governance.
“It will be sad to leave, but I’m looking forward to taking up my new position and meeting all challenges head-on,” he said.
“Best of all, I’m looking forward to spending more time with my wife, Adele, and our four children.”
Lieutenant Commander Henderson will remain onboard to finalise arrangements for her disposal, before retiring to the South Coast of New South Wales with his wife.
Lieutenant Commander O’Gorman will assume the role of Fleet Weapons Electrical Engineering Training Officer commencing in 2018.