Forty years of dedicated service by Chief Petty Officer Paul ‘Jock’ O’Keefe was recently celebrated by the crew of HMAS Newcastle, deployed to the Middle East Region on Op MANITOU.
Newcastle recognised CPO O’Keefe’s achievement with a Clear Lower Deck and cake, made specially to order by the ship’s chefs, and dinner in the Captain’s dining room.
The 40-year mark also means the senior chief is eligible for a Federation Star clasp to his Defence Long Service Medal, a feat rarely achieved in Defence.
The occasion was topped by a touching letter of congratulations from CPO O’Keefe’s wife, which was read out by his department.
The Marine Technicians on board also presented him with a framed copy of the Navy Newspaper published on the date he joined the RAN – 23 August 1977.
Chief O’Keefe said he was humbled by celebrations and the letter from his wife and family.
“The letter said how proud she and our family are of me and my achievement,” he said.
“Shows why after so many years together you can still be made to feel amazed and thankful by the people you love.”
Chief O’Keefe has served at sea for 25 years and has been deployed on Operations Manitou, Resolute, Slipper, Catalyst and Warden.
He has served in HMA Ships Torrens, and then Canberra, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, and Newcastle—each on multiple occasions, serving in all but one of the RAN’s FFG platforms.
CPO O’Keefe’s career has spanned a myriad of sea and shore postings.
“I have been asked ‘how could you the same job for so long,’ I reply ‘I haven’t’,” he said.
“Over my time I have been under instruction, I have been an instructor.
“I have spent time ashore and I’ve spent time at sea.
“I have been a junior sailor and I have been a divisional senior sailor.
“I have visited over 100 different cities and towns in over 40 countries.
“I didn’t join the Navy as a Chief Petty Officer I did my time and put in the hard yards.
“I learned to love the job I do, but it could not have been possible without all the people I have known over this time.”
The Chief’s advice for young sailors was to make the most of every moment in the Navy.
“You are in the Navy at a very exciting time with new assets coming on line and different career paths available.
“Enjoy your time; it goes faster than you think.
“Never be afraid to ask questions, nobody knows everything, even Chiefs - but I didn’t say that!”
CPO O’Keefe received a further surprise a few days later by the presentation of his Federation Star by Commander Joint Task Force 633, Major General John Frewen, when he embarked overnight in Newcastle for a visit.