Officer credits a team worth fighting for

At a time when marine technician retention is low, one officer’s team-first approach has paid off.

CAPTION: Lieutenant Quaelan Brooks helps children from the Khlong Toey slum raise communication flags on HMAS Anzac during a port visit to Bangkok in 2018. Story by Corporal Michael Rogers. Photo by Petty Officer Kayla Jackson.

Lieutenant Quaelan Brooks said the thing he is most proud of is that he has not had a team member request a discharge from his marine engineering department to date.

“And I would appreciate it if you didn’t write that down, because if you jinx it, I’ll be upset,” he said.

The command of his department on board HMAS Sheean and high retention rate led to Lieutenant Brooks being awarded the Admiral Nelson Sword of Excellence for 2022.

Clearly communicating with his technicians at all stages, particularly when there was a need to put in extra work and having them understand what they are trying to achieve, has been key to his department’s success.

“Managing expectations and fighting for the team’s interests has been critical,” he said.

“Even if they didn’t get exactly what they were after, they could see they were being fought for.”

Lieutenant Brooks sees the award as an acknowledgement of hard work, which highlights that leadership is not just a warfighting officer quality, but one everyone should strive to display.

“You challenge things that are unreasonable. You provide realistic expectations for your team about when they are going to work hard, and they do often work hard,” he said.

During a 12-month tenure on Sheean he led his department, making sure the boat remained operationally serviceable throughout a period of high tempo.

This enabled completion of the first Australian Submarine Command Course, during which they conducted sustained, high-end submarine warfare in challenging geographic and tactical situations.

The mechanical toll on the submarine meant the marine technicians had to work at their peak through prolonged operations.

The outstanding performance of his technicians earned them runners-up for the Fleet Engineering Department Award.

Though he has not yet received the sword in person, he has been congratulated by colleagues and expects to have it presented soon.

The Admiral Nelson Sword of Excellence was first awarded in 2006 and seeks to encourage leadership excellence in Navy’s junior officers.

It is awarded annually to an officer who has demonstrated outstanding seagoing leadership.


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