Sailor shoots for the stars

A lack of available apprenticeships in Townsville almost put an early end to Leading Seaman Esther Melvin’s career aspirations when she moved there in 2014.

CAPTION: Leading Seaman Esther Melvin holds 25mm Typhoon shells following a live-fire activity on HMAS Canberra as the ship makes its way to Exercise Talismans Sabre in 2021. Story by Private Nicholas Marquis. Photo by Leading Seaman Sittichai Sakonpoonpol.

She wanted to be an electrician, and it was an ad for Navy trades discovered by her mum that provided the initial spark to join.

Leading Seaman Melvin was drawn to the water and thought being paid full-time to learn what she wanted was an opportunity too good to pass up.

Closing in on nine years of service, the weapons electronics technician said the Navy experience is like no other and without technicians the fleet wouldn’t sail.

Specialising in hydraulics, pneumatics and electronics, her role on the ship is to make sure the guns are ready to fire.

“We’re the ones that maintain and make sure that all of the weapon systems function properly,” Leading Seaman Melvin said.

“If you don’t have that, then you have no defence, which is a scary place to be.”

Even though the role can put her under pressure, Leading Seaman Melvin said seeing the outcomes from what she achieves makes it exciting and rewarding.

Ashore, maintenance of equipment happens daily, while at sea, extra tests are needed to ensure the guns are still up to working standards.

This includes the ship’s 25mm weapons, which Leading Seaman Melvin is qualified on. However, she would love to go on to work on a five-inch gun.

“Going to sea is the best part of the job, making friends and then getting to blow stuff up,” Leading Seaman Melvin said.

“Having a big gun go off and feeling the percussion going through your whole body, that’s pretty fun.”

Currently posted to HMAS Canberra, humanitarian aid relief is the ship’s main effort, with Leading Seaman Melvin having deployed to Tonga and more recently Operation Vanuatu Assist.

On board, she helps maintain Canberra’s Rafael Typhoon 25mm remote weapons systems and 25mm Bushmaster chain guns.

Her most memorable deployment was Operation Bushfire Assist, evacuating people from Mallacoota, which she said was a rewarding experience.

“If you enjoy any sort of problem solving, I think this is the perfect job for people like that,” she said.

Navy is recruiting electronics and marine technicians, like Leading Seaman Melvin. No experience is required, and recruits will receive paid on-the-job training, career progression opportunities and the benefits of working both at sea and ashore.


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