The James update

5 Jan
Yet again Louise has been doing all the hard work with the blog, it’s not that she is any less busy than me, but when I am slumped before the TV after work she seems to find the energy to work at the computer.  Whilst I am still on leave and Louise is at work, I felt it appropriate to give you an update on life from my perspective.
Before I go on – Happy New Year to you all.  It was strange not being at home for the Christmas period and I think that both of us felt a little sad at times not being there with you all.  As Louise mentioned in a recent entry we were very fortunate to be invited to stay with the Lettens in Brisbane and we were made to feel extremely welcome and part of the family, which was wonderful.
I had two weeks off over Christmas which was pretty short compared with the majority of the navy who as a rule close down for around four weeks during this period.  We (HMAS Newcastle) for various reasons decided to take a shorter leave period and frankly that suits me, especially with Louise at work, it also makes going back that much easier!  I joined HMAS Newcastle at the end of November, and my job is the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Officer, as opposed to my previous existence in the RN where I was the Above Water warfare officer.  To be honest there isn’t that much difference; sink submarines vs shoot down missiles!  So far things seem fine.  The XO (executive officer and second in command) joined at the same time as me and as my immediate boss he seems like a very decent bloke, with a similar philosophy on work/leadership as myself.  The CO seems ok, I will be able to make a more informed judgment once we get to sea in mid January.  Initially I was a little peeved as when I joined he didn’t conduct a formal joining interview with me, and I felt that he had no idea who I was and what my experience/background consisted of.  I suppose that as most of my Australian PWO counter parts tend to be junior Lts with little more than 4 or 5 years experience behind them, he didn’t expect a Lt Cdr with 15 years of service and having served in 7 Ships.  However, after attending a warfare conference at a nearby base before Christmas and after taking on a couple of big projects for him we managed to have the ‘joining’ discussion and I think our relationship has been strengthened because of that chat – I just need to perform now!
The Ship’s programme is pretty suitable for me, both personally and professionally.  We remain in Sydney, going to sea most weeks from Monday to Friday until the end of February, after that we are heading over to WA (Western Australia), where the other main Naval base is located for a few weeks of exercises.  One of the these weeks in a ASW exercise for which we going to be in charge of all the Ships and aircraft in fighting a submarine and basically it is up to me as the ASW officer to come up with the plan to defeat the Submarine over a three day period.  This is a high profile exercise and there is much emphasis placed on trying out some new doctrine that has the interest of senior Navy leadership – no pressure there then!  Once we have completed that series of exercises the Ship will spend a long weekend alongside in Fremantle for the Easter weekend. We hope that Louise will be able to fly out to join me for Easter and we plan to head down to Margaret River a couple of hours south of Perth in beautiful winery countryside.  From WA we head to New Zealand via a quick stop in Tasmania to conduct some navigation training for a batch of navigating students – similar to what I did in 2004 around the channel islands and the south coast of the UK.  Again, commitments permitting, Louise may fly out to join me in NZ for a couple of days.  The Ship returns to Sydney in mid May and will remain East coast based for the reminder of the year, spending the odd week at sea.  As it stands I am meant to be leaving Newcastle in August to commence a warfare course back in HMAS Watson in Sydney, but the CO and XO (and me) believe that my RN qualifications and experience are more than what I would get from the course and they would prefer that I stay on the Ship and take over as the Operations Officer.  We’ll see what happens, I have submitted a formal request for the RAN to recognise my RN PWO qualifications, hopefully I will have an answer by February – it will also mean a pay rise if the request is approved.
My career in the longer term will be determined by how well I perform in Newcastle, however there is a shortage of Lt Cdrs in the warfare world (PWO Lts are now coming through in greater numbers) so I envisage a shore posting as a staff officer.  I hope to be based in Sydney, perhaps instructing PWOs at Watson or maybe at the Sea Training group also in Sydney but going to sea to ‘ride’ Ships as they work up.  The other options are getting on the Battle Staff who are unfortunately moving their HQ to Brisbane, but with the way the RAN is growing with the arrival of HMAS Choules (formally RFA Largs Bay) and the big Helicopter landing ships Canberra and Adelaide in a couple of years (huge Ships like an aircraft carrier they will make a vast difference to what the RAN with embarked army and helicopter forces) that this is where the future lies and it may make sense to get involved from the outset.  There is also the option (if I am selected) of getting a Command of a mine hunter.  Anyway we’ll see, much water to pass under the bridge.
Outside of work Louise has kept you up to date on our activities, life is busy but very enjoyable.  We have a great set of friends and we are really beginning to feel settled.  I have bought a basic road bike (racer) and went for my first early (6.30 am) bike ride with Andrew Letten this morning, we both have ambitions of doing a triathlon…someday!  Anyway it was worth rolling out of bed at a silly time whilst on leave, watch this space.
Well I think I will call it a day there, the cricket is on and Clarke is on 283, so I would like to see him get 300 before lunch.
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