Navy Operational Diving Team Reunion 2015

By Dave Moran. Images by Dave Moran except where marked, by Chris Weissenborn.
ODT members past and present celebrate with family and guests. A very proud moment. *

ODT members past and present celebrate with family and guests. A very proud moment. *

“You can take the person out of the Navy but you can never take the Navy out of the person.”

The divers' home away from home: HMNZS Manawanui.

The divers’ home away from home: HMNZS Manawanui.

It has been five years since I attended the last New Zealand Navy’s Operational Diving Team (ODT) reunion in Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands. (Oct/Nov 2010 issue #120.)

The Navy’s base, HMNZS Philomel in Devonport, Auckland was an ideal location for the past members of ODT to once again renew old friendships and reminisce about their life and experiences as a Navy diver. Plus meet the young members of the ODT and to discuss the sophisticated diving equipment that is being used today. For me it is a privilege to attend these reunions.

The ODT know how to organise a function!

I think it’s maybe a test to see if the ‘Old Boys’ still have the stamina that they had when doing the infamous Mud Run when they were fit young bucks back in the distant past!

The reunion (4–6 Dec 2015) started at 1700 hrs on Friday with a spiritual gathering at the Navy Marae (Te Taua Moana Marae). Guests were welcomed by a thundering haka by the current ODT. This was followed by welcome drinks at the Senior Rates Mess.

Saturday 0900 hrs, the RNZN Museum opened followed by a tour of the ODT’s base where various items of equipment were on display plus, what was for many an emotional wander through their home when at sea, HMNZS Manawanui.

The evening’s formal dinner was held at the Spencer on Byron in Takapuna.

Retired Rear Admiral Jack Steer, ONZM address the formal dinner guests.

Retired Rear Admiral Jack Steer, ONZM address the formal dinner guests.*

WWII veteran Jim “Frenchie” France entertained the formal dinner guests about his war adventures with the dinner’s MC, Lt Cdr Trevor Leslie by his side. Trevor was Chairman of the Reunion Committee. He and his team ensured that the weekend ran smoothly. Photo by Chris Weissenborn.

WWII veteran Jim “Frenchie” France entertained the formal dinner guests about his war adventures with the dinner’s MC, Lt Cdr Trevor Leslie by his side.
Trevor was Chairman of the Reunion Committee. He and his team ensured that the weekend ran smoothly. Photo by Chris Weissenborn.

Sunday 1000 hrs a Farewell Breakfast – or was it a recovery breakfast at the Navy Marae! I’ve never done the Mud Run through the energy-sapping mangroves but come Sunday breakfast I, like many, was in need of a celebratory strong coffee – we had survived the reunion!

One of the highlights of the reunion beside catching up with old friends and viewing high-spec military diving equipment was the speech by the formal dinner’s guest speaker, retired Rear Admiral, Jack R Steer.
He reminded all those in attendance of what a very special group they belonged to. I thought Jack’s speech was excellent and I wish to share with you some of Jack’s comments that I felt hit the nail on the head re being a member of the ODT:

  • “You serve your nation in a way that is far more challenging than a lot of others. And throughout this you retain your unique sense of humour and the bonds of comradeship that have enabled you to survive the many challenges your work and your life have thrown at you.
  • The young sailors of today stand on the shoulders of you veterans, you have all played a major part in creating the diving branch culture and reputation that exists in our Navy of today. I guess it really is true to say that you can take the person out of the Navy but you can never take the Navy out of the person.
  • You have done things that others have not or cannot. You have faced up to your fears and overcome them. In a way, you are role models for many today, your history tells the story; your reputation is incredible.
  • Leadership and trust are hallmarks of your trade. You need to trust each other, at times your lives are literally in your mate’s hands. You rely on them to be there if something goes wrong. Others prepare the equipment you wear. Without trust your branch could not do the fine work it does. It is to me a key part of everything you do.
  • This work is not for the faint-hearted and can only be undertaken by very special people who must cope with the tough training regime as well as the stresses of dangerous and unpleasant work in an unforgiving environment.
  • You have proven yourselves on the international stage and represented our country across the globe. You are Navy divers, an elite team that sets the bar of membership extremely high, who trust and value their shipmates and who go to places that few would dare to go.”
Bash Bishop recalls his first oxygen-nitrogen rebreather back in the 1960s

Bash Bishop recalls his first oxygen-nitrogen rebreather back in the 1960s

Yes it was indeed a privilege to be in the presence of such a group of men and their wives and partners who also have provided an inner strength for their men. They too can stand proud of what their men have achieved!

The last word goes to retired ODT diver Brian Reed: “We are family and always will be.”

The Navy will celebrate its 75th year in 2016.

A special thanks to Trevor Leslie, Commander, RNZN, director of development in HQ integrated air defence in Penang who in past years was Commanding Officer for the ODT for organising the reunion.

 

 

 

 

 

Diver reunion_008The ODT badge incorporates the protective Maori figure ‘he tekoteko’ (a carved human form on the gable of a meeting house, or figurehead of a canoe). Tekoteko represent strength, inspiration, spirit, knowledge and guards against obstacles that may block its path.
Held above the tekoteko’s head is a sea mine which gives it a ‘Diving Sea Warrior’ identity. His pledge is to strive to protect all in his team, with the core values of courage, strength and loyalty. The koru on its body represent the scars received through the intense training a Navy diver endures throughout his career and the many pathways you must follow to become a navy diver.
The ODT motto is ‘Whakamaaia, Whakakaha, Whakapono’, which means ‘Courage, Strength, Loyalty’.