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Features - Sea legs found in Pacific

Handy sense of direction

A harpoon is shot past the USS Lake Champlain during Exercise RIMPAC 04.

A harpoon is shot past the USS Lake Champlain during
Exercise RIMPAC 04.

FLTLT Jason Storey, of No. 44 Wing Detachment, was aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa.

I JOINED Tarawa the day before she sailed from Pearl Harbour and, after a short mystery tour to find my cabin, set about trying to find employment.

I was sent to the Air Ops Cell but they decided I would be best working for Tactical Air Control Squadron 11 as a TACC watch offi cer.

It turned out that was where I was meant to be all along. The Australian rank structure confused them, so FLTLT Storey was shortened to LT Storey and then ditched for Mr Storey.

Tarawa conducted a wide range of amphibious operations, including a non-combatant evacuation operation, various raids by helo, mechanised and Special Forces, and an amphibious assault.

I learnt as much as I could about the control and coordination procedures for airspace management and aircraft operations during these events.

I also visited parts of the ship involved with aviation. Fortunately I had just completed the RAN Basic Sea Survivability School course, which teaches you how to navigate around a ship.

It came in handy as Tarawa has 12 decks. The wardroom facilities were very good, although sleeping in a rack the size of a coffi n wore thin after a while.

So did being kept awake until 1am because of night fl ying (my cabin was under the fl ight deck) and getting woken at 5.30am by .50 calibre, 20mm cannon and close-in weapons systems, especially when you hit your head on the deck head.

Still, I learned a lot about amphibious operations and had a great time with great people.

 

 

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