These stealth-like objects are a bit of an enigma. There are only six Collins class submarines in the Royal Australian Navy and when journalist Nadine Morton was invited on board to check them out she jumped at the chance. She has delved deep to find out whose on board, where they come from and most importantly what the submariners get to eat.
We know how to drive the ship and how to fight the ship: Josephine Rider
This job is not for the faint-hearted, there is no sunlight and there is very little personal space, but for Submariner Lieutenant Josephine Rider this is the job for her.
Following years of working in IT, she realised she needed more challenges so joined the Royal Australian Navy in 2009.
Just two years later, Leut Rider set herself a bigger challenge and took the plunge to undergo gruelling training to become a submariner on one of the Navy’s six Collins class submarines.
“I started submarine training in 2011,” she said.
Leut Rider was on board the HMAS Dechaineux while it was docked in Garden Island.
We know how to drive the ship and how to fight the ship.Royal Australian Navy Submariner Lieutenant Josephine Rider
She explained that for some in the Navy it was a financial decision to work on a sub due to the higher pay packet, but for her it was the opportunity to set herself greater challenges.
Life for the Sydneysider, who lives in Eastwood when not on board a submarine, has been pretty amazing ever since.
“We know how to drive the ship and how to fight the ship,” Leut. Rider said.
Her “ship” is the HMAS Dechaineux and she is one of 60 people who call the 77.8 metre long vessel her workplace.
“You quickly learn how to get on with the rest of your crew mates,” Leut Rider said.
“There’s normally a minimum of two females [on a submarine], but there’s six females on board which is pretty good in my opinion, this includes one transgender person.
“The ADF [Australian Defence Force] is able to integrate people regardless of gender.”
There is no segregation when it comes to showers, toilets and other facilities on board the HMAS Dechaineux.
Leut. Rider said working on board one of the Navy’s submarines was something people volunteered to do, it was not something you were ordered or instructed to do, and she considers it a great privilege.
“There is a fair bit of kudos in it, in having the dolphins,” she said.
The honour of wearing the ‘dolphin badge’ is reserved strictly for submariners, or as the Navy Daily calls them, the “Navy’s Silent Service”.
“Upon successful completion of training requirements, sailors who have earned their 'dolphins' can proudly wear the badge that signifies they are now qualified submariners,” it reports.
Leut. Rider said she loves her role on board the HMAS Dechaineux, but there are also challenges.
“There’s the challenge of living in a confined space, there’s a real lack of space,” she said.
But, Leut Rider said, there are many more things to be happy about than the number of challenges.
“It’s a real sense of achievement in the job, there’s not many people who can do it,” she said.
Feeling peckish? Try cooking in a submarine under the ocean: Ryan Brooks
Baked Thai seasoned snapper, grilled rump steak with creamy peppercorn sauce or a fillet mignon with mushroom sauce – sounds like a fancy restaurant doesn’t it?
You’d be wrong if you thought so.
Welcome to the HMAS Dechaineux and these are just some of the on-board meals the crew will be eating this week.
Chef Ryan Brooks, whose home town is Morayfield north of Brisbane, has been in the Royal Australian Navy for the past five years.
You may think being stuck in a kitchen gallery many metres below sea level might be difficult – just talking about his job brought a huge smile to Mr Brooks’ face.
“We’ve got two chefs on board and we cook four meals a day,” he said of the breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight meal services.
“We serve up three choices, plus salads and a dessert [at each meal service].”
Planning a menu for 60 people for weeks on end at sea does have its challenges, but Mr Brooks said he has it down to a fine art.
“There’s enough fresh veg for 22 days, it’s frozen veggies after that.” he said.
Mr Brooks is a baker by trade and there is one part of his job that brings a smile to not only his face but those of his fellow crew.
He has a list of every crew member’s birthday, and when each person’s special day comes up he bakes them a cake in one of the kitchen’s two ovens – no matter where they are at sea, or under it.
“Morale is so important on board because there’s no where else you an go,” Mr Brooks said.
“I love to just see the smiles on their faces.”
As far as the challenges of cooking in a 77.8 metres long submarine under the ocean, Mr Brooks said there was only one that sprung to mind.
“Rough seas are hard sometimes and when I put stuff in the oven and it spills,” he said.
Primary to emergency care – all while under the ocean’s surface: Nick Hutchings and Fallon Woodbury
Everything from a Band-Aid to emergency medicine – medics Nick Hutchings and Fallon Woodbury are ready to help.
They are among a tight-knit crew of 60 people aboard the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Dechaineux and they were only too happy to share a few insights into their job.
There, the medics explained that while the crew was at sea, in a confined space and on duty for undersea warfare to protect Australia and its interests – anything could happen.
“It’s everything from primary to emergency care,” Ms Woodbury said.
They are among a number of crew on the HMAS Dechaineux who talked about the honour of serving, not only in the Royal Australian Navy, but on board one of the six Collins class submarines.
“There are only 26 medics who have ever served as submariner medics,” Mr Hutchings said.
When not tending to the medical needs of the crew the duo are also stepping in where needed in other departments.
They explain that in some areas of the Navy you are restricted to only performing your primary role while on duty. In a submarine this is very different.
“We also sit on the combat system and we can also drive,” Mr Hutchings said.
When not on a sub, Ms Woodbury calls Brisbane home, while Mr Hutchings is from Knox in Victoria.
Reporting for duty brings benefits to the workplace: Paul Summers
Attention to detail, team player and lateral thinking, Nepean Hospital executive officer Paul Summers says these are the qualities that any employer would want in their staff.
Mr Summers was among a group of just 10 people who were recently invited on board the Royal Australia Navy’s HMAS Dechaineux while it was docked at Garden Island, Sydney for a closer look.
As an employer of Australian Defence Force reservists, he said it was the perfect opportunity to see first-hand what type of work they undertake while on duty.
At Nepean Hospital, Mr Summers has a group of nurses and doctors who in their spare time are reservists and he was quick to say they were not all Army reservists.
“I think a lot of people don’t know there’s also Navy and Air Force reservists,” he said.
In his role at the hospital Mr Summers said he had seen what a benefit reservists were to any work environment.
“They’re a value-add, they’re very good people as far as being able to think on their feet,” he said.
“They’ve got great team work … they’ve got resilience and the ability to rapidly adapt to change.
“It’s [these personality traits that are] certainly enhanced by the Defence Force.”
They’re a value-add, they’re very good people as far as being able to think on their feet.Nepean Hospital executive officer Paul Summers
Mr Summers said during the tour of HMAS Dechaineux he was able to relate his own experience of being a Royal Australian Air Force reservist for the past 15 years.
“People can look at the military negatively, but there’s a lot of positives like backing up your mates and working together,” he said.
Mr Summers said during his own time a reservist it had been necessary to form a good working partnership with his employer.
“It’s been very much a partnership with my employers and there’s been a bit of give and take from both sides,” he said.
“A lot of my things [duties of a reservist] have been done after hours or on the weekend or during my leave.
“Both my employer and the Air Force have been flexible.”