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December 6, 2012
LS Paul Berry
THREE of Navy's stalwart landing
crafts will decommission this month
after four decades of distinguished
HMA Ships Balikpapan, Wewak
and Betano have been the backbone
of Navy's amphibious operations
since commissioning in the early
1970s, and make up half of the LCH
A decommissioning ceremony
will be held for Wewak at HMAS
Cairns on December 11.
Balikpapan and Betano will
decommission in a joint cer-
emony at HMAS Coonawarra on
CN VADM Ray Griggs said the
LCH Fleet had provided outstand-
ing service to Navy and the broader
ADF for the past 38 years.
"Many of us have had the privi-
lege of serving in a 'shoebox',"
VADM Griggs said.
"Their operational record, par-
ticularly over the past 25 years cov-
ering operations in Bougainville,
East Timor and Solomon Islands,
has been steadfast and exemplary
as indicated by the granting of a
Meritorious Unit Citation for the
LCH group for operations in East
Timor during the Interfet interven-
tion from 1999-2000.
"I congratulate all personnel,
both uniformed and civilian, who
have operated and maintained these
wonderful amphibious workhorses
for almost four decades."
From providing humanitar-
ian aid in the aftermath of Cyclone
Tracy in 1974 to current operations
in East Timor, the LCHs have had
illustrious careers serving Australia.
CO Betano LEUT Christopher
Cockerill, said his crew had enjoyed
a decommissioning cruise to the
ship's namesake, Betano, in East
"We went to Betano at sunrise
as a mark of respect to HMAS
Voyager's amphibious operations
[in the area during WWII] and as a
nod to the ship's crest, which is the
rising sun," LEUT Cockerill said.
"It's an honour to be the last CO
of one of the longest current serv-
ing ships in the Navy, and I've got
to honour the names of those who
went before me, so it's quite a big
deal," he said.
ABCK Mitchell Doughty, who
is serving on Betano for a second
time, said he jumped at the chance
to re-join for her final nine months
"My most memorable experi-
ence was sailing to Tonga through
ridiculously rough weather for
three weeks to take part in Pacific
Partnership in 2009," ABCK
"It was a great feeling helping
out in countries less fortunate than
ours and the looks on the Americans
faces when they saw us; they just
couldn't believe we had come all
the way from Australia in these
CO Balikpapan LEUT Justine
Archer said her crew aimed to give
the LCHs a graceful farewell.
"I think it's a sad event to see the
ships leave our fleet after their long
and dedicated service and hopeful-
ly they will be remembered in the
future," LEUT Archer said.
HMA Ships Brunei, Labuan and
Tarakan are likely to decommission
in the final quarter of 2014.
DIRECTOR Training Authority
Aviation CMDR Darryn Jose welcomed
guests to the Fleet Air Arm Museum on
November 16 for what he described as
an "historic event" -- the introduction of
a new aviation category into Navy, the
first for 30 years.
Family and friends gathered to
watch the first 15 aviation support cat-
egory graduates receive their certificates
after completing the intensive and phys-
ically demanding two-month course.
CMDR Jose said the training period
was an exciting and challenging one.
"In developing the course we've
done a few things slightly differ-
ent to every other course. We had all
ranks from chief petty officer to sea-
man across a varying range of catego-
ries, aviation technicians to bosuns and
chefs. We've had to develop some inno-
vative and world-standard training aids
and we've worked to very tight time-
lines," he said.
"The standard of graduates has been
outstanding and I'm confident of their
success in the future of Navy."
A major factor in the future of Navy
will be the introduction of LHDs.
A consideration in design of the new
course was recognising the significant
role aviation support personnel will play.
They will be required to fulfil a vari-
ety of flight-deck and hangar duties at
sea so how to train them on land was a
problem that required innovative and
creative training solutions.
An outline of a LHD hangar was
painted onto the HMAS Albatross
hardstand and synthetic aircraft train-
ing shapes, of similar dimensions and
weight as real aircraft, were manufac-
tured by a local Shoalhaven shipbuilder.
CMDR Jose said the synthetic air-
craft shapes were the perfect solution
in providing the trainees with the air-
craft manoeuvring skills that would be
required in operating in the tight con-
fines of the hangar and flight deck of
"In the future they will be work-
ing with $50m aircraft so to give them
a realistic model to train with, at less
than 1 per cent of the cost of the real
thing, was one of the outstanding
achievements in the development of this
course," he said.
Graduate SMN Robert Brook joined
Navy two years ago and said he was
interested in the new category as soon
as he heard about it.
"I've grown up around aviation and
aircraft and love the Navy and thought
it was a fantastic opportunity," he said.
"Brand new category, brand new
capabilities -- it's really exciting."
SMN Brook said the course was
challenging but very rewarding.
"It was quite physically demand-
ing and obviously none of us has done
anything like this before with multi-spot
capability," he said.
"There were so many highlights, I
very much enjoyed firefighting aspects
and getting to know the guys on course
was fantastic because you're in with
seaman sailors all the way up to chief.
There's a good range of people and
experience and lots of good stories."
The next course is due to start around
February 13, 2013, and will again con-
sist of transfer of category mixed ranks.
The graduates will join either 808,
816 or 723 squadrons to consolidate
their training until they post out to
NUSHIP Canberra in December 2013.
heralds a new era
End of the
REALISTIC AID: Graduates of the aviation
support category train on the synthetic
aircraft shapes at HMAS Albatross (above)
and (inset) the new category rate badge.
Photos: LSIS Yuri Ramsey
LONG SERVICE LEAVE: HMAS Betano and Balikpapan anchor at Leutem, East Timor during Exercise
Pacific Partnership 2011. Both will decommission this month.
Photo: LSIS Helen Frank
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