Flying start for Ballarat’s aviator

Published on LEUT Will Singer (author), LSIS Shane Cameron (photographer)

Topic(s): MH-60R Seahawk, 816 Squadron, HMAS Ballarat (F155)

Maritime Aviation Warfare Officer, Sub Lieutenant Ashley Hill, stands in front of the MRH-60 helicopter, callsign ‘Convict’, embarked on HMAS Ballarat for Exercise MALABAR 2020. (photo: LSIS Shane Cameron)
Maritime Aviation Warfare Officer, Sub Lieutenant Ashley Hill, stands in front of the MRH-60 helicopter, callsign ‘Convict’, embarked on HMAS Ballarat for Exercise MALABAR 2020.

Taking the front seat of an MH-60R helicopter while employing its cutting edge sensor and weapons systems is just another day in the office for a Port Macquarie local.

Navy Maritime Aviation Warfare Officer Sub Lieutenant Ashley Hill plays an integral role onboard HMAS Ballarat, with the embarked 816 Squadron Flight 3 helicopter’s enhanced anti-submarine, anti-surface warfare and search and rescue capabilities.

Growing up on the coast and looking for a career travelling the world, Sub Lieutenant Hill completed high school at St Columba Anglican School before moving south to commence her leadership training at HMAS Creswell more than five years ago.

“Shortly after my New Entry Officers’ Course, I was deployed on a north-east Asian trip visiting seven countries while serving onboard HMAS Arunta. It was more than I expected and I consider myself lucky for that opportunity so early in my career,” Sub Lieutenant Hill said.

“Being quite young and a female in a male-dominated environment was daunting, but I had a great crew and found my place quickly.

“My exposure to military and airborne operations in Arunta was pivotal in my decision to pursue a career in aviation and transfer from ship to helicopter warfare.”

As a mission commander for the flight, Sub Lieutenant Hill is responsible for the tactical decision-making and operational employment of the Seahawk, running the strategic use of weapon and sensor systems designed to protect the force and counter-enemy attack.

Using the sophisticated sensor suite, Sub Lieutenant Hill is responsible for directing and supporting operations while advising the force of key tactical and strategic information vital to the mission.

“I was one of a few females coming through the Maritime Aviation Warfare Officer pipeline, and although Navy aviation has previously had a relatively small representation of females, there is an increase in women moving through the fleet in warfare-focused roles, which is promising,” Sub Lieutenant Hill said.

“My biggest achievement in my career is becoming qualified on such an impressive anti-submarine helicopter and my goal is to fully embrace each deployment and challenge during my time at sea.”