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A MUSICAL VOYAGE - Royal Australian Navy

A MUSICAL VOYAGE - Royal Australian Navy

- 188 – It was a

- 188 – It was a successful week for the Great White Fleet celebrations, with a significant contribution to the festivities being thanks to the professionalism of the musicians from both the Royal Australian Navy Band and United States Pacific Fleet Band. Although there was limited rehearsal time together, the polished performances both entertained and impressed Australian and American VIP’s, and all attending audience members. It was a chance for the two Navies to work together and continue their enduring friendship, as well as bringing some great entertainment to the community. Noted American historian, Professor Jim Reckner, who was in Australia to lecture on the Great White Fleet commented: One of the events that most struck me was the wonderful joint RAN-USN band concert in Sydney. The highlight of that performance, for me, was a wonderfully stirring rendition of "God Bless America" sung by a young female RAN member. Immediately after the performance, I commented to the Chief of the Navy and also to the General Counsel of the US Navy who was representing the Secretary of the Navy, that, in my view, there is no other country in the world where America could receive such a sincere and meaningful salute. I left Sydney last Saturday singing the praises of Australia as a tried and true friend of America, and will continue to sing those praises. RIMPAC 2008 Article by Petty Officer Sharon Jarvis Three weeks in Hawaii?? Free meals and accommodation thrown in?? Sounds like a great deal!! Oh, by the way, you’ll also spend 52 days at sea. Welcome to RIMPAC 08! So began the journey for ten musicians: Leading Seamen Martin Hancock and Aaron Geeves, Able Seamen Damian Dowd, Patrick Beaman, Haylen Newman, Natalie Urquhart, Catherine Wainwright, David Rampant, John McCorkelle, and myself. The date of departure had been set (9 June), so the two weeks prior were spent rehearsing, organising gear and familiarising ourselves with HMAS Tobruk—our place of work for the next 71 days. We set sail 10 June; only one day later than scheduled. The transit to Hawaii took us 17 days and during this time our days were filled doing rehearsals, damage control exercises and café party. For seven of our group this was their first sea experience and they quickly adapted to life at sea, with some extra guidance from two of our more experienced members, Leading Seaman Geeves and Able Seaman Dowd. Our first commitment alongside in Pearl Harbour was a cocktail party and Beat to Quarters onboard HMAS Success. Over 400 invited guests were entertained by our fabulous jazz group and ceremonial band, culminating in Able Seaman Dowd performing a stirring rendition of I Am Australian, the Star Spangled Banner and the Australian National Anthem. The band received very positive feedback and the night was a huge success, resulting in the mention of us doing a cross decks with a United States ship during the sea phase of RIMPAC. Of course, we shrugged it off and gave it no more thought; but little did we know what lay ahead! Later in the week we performed at two combined commitments with the Pacific Fleet Band, the first being a Change of Command Ceremony and that afternoon a concert at the Aloha Tower Shopping Centre. In Australia, when there is a change of command, a somewhat small ceremony is conducted but we have nothing compared to how the United States Navy conducts theirs. Talk about bigger than Ben Hur! Patriotic is an understatement when it comes to the Americans! One memorable phrase would have to be “the mightiest ship, in the mightiest Navy, in the mightiest nation in the world”. This was, however, topped off when the new Commanding Officer of the ship took to the podium, in front of many invited guests, high ranking United States Naval Officers and the ship’s company, and started to cry whilst giving his speech. He was obviously overwhelmed by the entire occasion as were we! We all came away from the ceremony feeling as if we had been extras in some kind of Tom Cruise movie. Royal Australian Navy Band: A Musical Voyage

- 189 – Independence Day was a free day for the Sea Deployment Group so many of us took advantage of the wonderful Hawaiian weather to see the sights on offer (not that wonderful for those poor souls that really are not into heat and humidity as it makes them swell up like a puffer fish – thank goodness for air conditioning!) Three of our members saw it as a great opportunity and challenge to go for a bit of a hike. They decided to tackle one of the numerous, quite high mountains in Hawaii. Unfortunately they thought that they were going to plunge to their death as they struggled up some wet and muddy goat track that was only about one foot wide and had a sheer drop on either side! One would think that as they were making their ascent and passing people descending wearing hard hats and carrying safety equipment that alarm bells would have sounded and that they may have thought that they were just a tad under prepared. Our intrepid adventurers continued on their merry way, at times crawling on their hands and knees, with the belief that once they reached the summit they would be able to find an alternate route down. Alas, no! Leading Seaman Hancock was required to put his boy scout skills to good use and ended up sharpening some branches that the group could use like ski poles to help support them for their descent. At one stage they actually thought that they would have to call someone to rescue them as they thought they would not be able to get back down the mountain! Luckily though, it did not get to this and our happy trio finally made it to the bottom, only to discover that there was a definite lack of taxis in the area, resulting in them walking 9 kilometres into Waikiki. By all accounts, they and their clothes were covered from top to toe with mud and they received quite a few strange looks from the locals as they made their way back to civilisation! Needless to say, the next day they were very stiff and sore as they reminisced about their big day out! The remainder of our time alongside before the sea phase saw us complete numerous Rock and Jazz group commitments around Hawaii. Although audience numbers were quite small, the band was very warmly received and performed outstandingly. The logistical support we received from the Pacific Fleet Band was greatly appreciated by all, along with their hospitality. Before we knew it, the sea phase was upon us and we all had 18 days of fun to look forward to. Due to the tank deck being taken up with equipment that was to be used during the sea phase, our equipment was not easily accessible and rehearsals came to a standstill as the area was out of bounds. Our days became a café party blur, especially as extra troops had been embarked from Malaysia and the US Marine Corps, resulting in both galleys being operational. This however changed very quickly on 20 July when I was informed by the Commanding Officer of Tobruk that the Sea Deployment Group would be heading over to the USS Bonhomme Richard. The plan was for us to take “minimum gear”, as we were to be landed ashore via RHIB ( three trips was all that was allowed) to a place named the “Old Tower” where we would then be met by a helicopter that would take us to the Bonhomme Richard. We were informed that there would be no requirement for us to take any amps or PA gear as apparently they had equipment onboard (though it was unclear what kind of gear they had – visions of inadequacy appeared!). We were also told that we would only be gone for a couple of days and to just take a knapsack with the bare essentials. Famous last words! What they didn’t tell us was that the “Old Tower” was miles away from where we were dropped off in the RHIB, so there we were with all our gear and no transport. Luckily, Leading Seaman Geeves struck up a conversation with a man that had a vehicle that resembled a golf cart and after many trips, we, and our gear, finally made it to our rendezvous point. After sitting around in a hanger for over two hours, wondering what was going on and having no point of contact, a helo finally came our way. I’m not sure it what type of helo it was but it was big! There were a heap of marines already onboard so I suppose all up it held over 25 people. Also, the back of the helo didn’t close so for those that didn’t mind heights, the view was spectacular! (not that I would know though I’ve seen the photos!) Royal Australian Navy Band: A Musical Voyage

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