Officers of the Watch in HMAS Ballarat successfully manoeuvred the ship during Exercise Malabar, which recently came to an end.
The exercise was a milestone opportunity to enhance Australia's maritime capabilities and build interoperability with our close regional partners, India, Japan and the United States.
On the bridge of the Australian frigate, Lieutenant Sean Klamut assumed the role of officer of the watch and was the direct representative of the ship’s commanding officer.
Working in three-hour shifts, each officer of the watch takes over the responsibilities of the bridge in what seems to a be a seamless flurry of commands and instructions between the personnel on the bridge, the sailors on watch, and the operations room.
Ballarat’s team consists of Lieutenants Matthew Newman, Michael Carpenter, Klamut, and Sub-Lieutenant Joel Douglas.
Lieutenant Klamut said multi-tasking was core to the role.
“It is not an easy task to balance various evolutions, responsibilities and priorities in a high-risk environment, which often extends beyond the bridge and maintaining navigational safety,” Lieutenant Klamut said.
“The ability to plan three or four steps ahead is the key to achieving this.
“Remaining calm is vital for setting the standard of professionalism and building confidence, not only in the commanding officer, but in all members of the watch on deck.”
It’s been a ground-breaking deployment for Lieutenant Newman, who was awarded his platform endorsement while deployed, a qualification that endorses his ability to conduct watches in an Anzac-class frigate.
He said operating within a Nimitz Carrier Strike Group was a completely new experience with different challenges for the entire bridge team.
“The sheer size of the Carrier Strike Group, including how the Nimitz uses its fixed and rotary wing aircraft, requires a higher degree of tactical understanding than would typically be the case for the Australian Navy,” Lieutenant Newman said.
“The busy waterways in which Exercise Malabar was taking place increases the complexity of operating within a Carrier Strike Group.
“Because we were sailing through some of the world’s busiest shipping routes and in close proximity to sizeable fleets of small fishing vessels, we are responsible for maintaining the navigational safety of the ship while simultaneously achieving the tactical requirements of the force.
“Despite the challenges experienced in the conduct of high-tempo multinational exercises, the bridge team has maintained the precision or professionalism required to keep the ship safe.
“All four officers worked collaboratively, which allowed for the seamless execution of command intent across evolutions and watch handovers.”
Lieutenant Carpenter said that a foundation of robust, functional teamwork was essential for achieving any operational aim.
“Ballarat depends on mutual support and interoperability between the many different types of teams on board, across all departments and disciplines, so that she can deliver capability in support of government objectives,” Lieutenant Carpenter said.