New commanding officer takes the helm at RIMPAC

Commander David ‘Billy’ Maddison is participating in RIMPAC, the world’s largest international maritime exercise, for the fourth time, but it’s his first in command of a Royal Australian Navy ship.

CAPTIONCommanding Officer of HMAS Sydney, Commander Billy Maddison, speaks to media during Exercise Rim of the Pacific 2024, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Story by Lieutenant Carolyn Martin. Photo by Corporal Adam Abela.

He recently assumed command of HMAS Sydney, one of three Hobart-class guided missile destroyers and one of Australia’s most lethal maritime capabilities.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of leading 200 highly competent Australians through what will be a challenging test of our readiness and preparedness,” Commander Maddison said.

“The purpose of RIMPAC is to encourage interoperability and interchangeability in a highly complex environment with our partners in the Indo Pacific. That really gets to the theme of RIMPAC – Partners, Integrated and Prepared.

“We are privileged to be working with 29 other countries – both old partners like our Royal New Zealand Navy friends just over the pier from us and some partners from further away, but who value a stable region such as the Netherlands, Germany or Italy.”

Commander Maddison first came to Pearl Harbor on the southern coast of Hawaii for RIMPAC 2010 in HMAS Warramunga when he was a sub-lieutenant officer of the watch.

“Then in 2017 it was a great privilege to serve on exchange with the United States Navy here in Pearl Harbor for three years. That was a real career highlight,” he said.

That period saw him participate in two more RIMPACs in 2018 and 2020.

Two years serving as Sydney’s Executive Officer followed, before assuming command.

Commander Maddison said, in his experience, the best memories of RIMPAC are made ashore, interacting with international colleagues on various topics, ranging from shipborne life, maritime tactics or recent operational experiences.

“My crew and I are looking forward to building and fostering relationships,” Commander Maddison said.

“This time around, I’m seeing people who I’ve previously met at other RIMPACs. We are all doing different jobs and it is wonderful to reminisce about our previous experiences and reflect on how we have carried them into our new roles.

One of his favourite moments of RIMPAC is the PHOTEX exercise, where all the ships assemble at sea for a photo opportunity.

“When you have upwards of 40 ships and submarines from multiple nations operating in close vicinity within a mile of an aircraft carrier it’s a truly impressive sight and something that lives with you for a long time.”


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