When it comes to Defence careers, few could match that of HMAS Adelaide’s incoming senior health officer Lieutenant Commander Roneel Chandra for variety.
Starting out as an infantry soldier 20 years ago, Lieutenant Commander Chandra studied nursing and rose to the rank of major as an Army nursing officer.
After 18 years in the Army, he took his land-based medical skills to sea when he transferred to Navy in 2018.
He said his dual-service career was particularly advantageous in joint operations, such as the current Exercise Sea Wader in which Adelaide is taking part.
“When we get Army personnel coming through to look at our medical facilities in Adelaide, I can speak their language and I know what their experiences have been, so I feel very comfortable working in a joint environment,” he said.
His Army career included deployments to East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.
He had roles as officer-in-charge of the Parachute Surgical Team, nursing officer with the 2nd Commando Regiment, health centre manager of Joint Health Command and officer-in-charge of the Shock Trauma Platoon.
Lieutenant Commander Chandra transferred to Navy seeking new challenges as a nurse.
“I had never worked in the maritime health environment, so this was a new clinical environment for me and it has met the brief of providing new challenges,” he said.
“The thing I like most is the variety – I can be working at Liverpool Hospital one day maintaining my clinical skills; next I can be receiving a casualty in the ship’s resuscitation bay or conducting an aero-medical evacuation.”
I never really wanted to do anything else, so being able to achieve a career in nursing while working in challenging environments in both Army and now Navy is a dream come true.
Before joining Adelaide, he served as team leader of the resuscitation department at the Maritime Operational Health Unit and had a number of deployments, including on Joint Warfare Series 2018, Operation APEC Assist 2018 and Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019.
However, he said his Navy career highlights were his recent deployments.
He served in HMAS Choules during the evacuation of more than 1300 civilians from the coastal town of Mallacoota, Victoria, during Operation Bushfire Assist, and was officer-in-charge of a team conducting mobile COVID-19 testing across seven sites in the eastern area of
Melbourne during Operation COVID-19 Assist.
Lieutenant Commander Roneel Chandra grew up in the NSW town of Nowra where he attended Saint John the Evangelist Catholic High School.
He said enlisting in Defence was something he always wanted to do.
“I never really wanted to do anything else, so being able to achieve a career in nursing while working in challenging environments in both Army and now Navy is a dream come true,” he said.
When he officially takes up his senior health officer role in HMAS Adelaide next month, his goals are to continue developing the integration and capability of the Maritime Operation Health Unit and use his land-based trauma experience to modify the casualty reception facility in support of the ship’s company and Amphibious Task Group.