817 Squadron decommissioned

THE retirement of the Navy’s workhorse, the Sea King helicopter has been described by Gilmore MP, Joanna Gash, as ‘the passing of an era’ in the history of the Royal Australian Navy.

“Just as the Iroquois helicopter was connected with the Vietnam War era, the Sea King represents naval air operations during the turn of the 21st Century,” she said.

“The memory of the Sea King will always be associated with HMAS Albatross and the Shoalhaven.

“I salute our naval airman who crewed the Sea Kings in all sorts of weather and conditions.

Mrs Gash said she had enjoyed her strong relationship with the Navy and local Defence assets as the Federal Member and continues to do so.

“I well remember my terror while being winched down from a hovering Sea King onto the deck of HMAS Brisbane.”

As the chair of the former government’s Defence and Veterans Affairs Committee, she was engaged in the transitionary planning for the Sea King’s replacement, the MRH 90.

“The Sea King crews did a remarkable job and I have absolutely no doubt the MRH 90 crews will maintain the fine tradition of service that has been set,” Mrs Gash said.

A FEW minutes before 11am on Friday December 16, home of the Sea Kings 817 Squadron was decommissioned.

It was a full ceremony with all the tradition and ceremony the Australian Navy is known for.

The decommissioning was attended by the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs and Commander of the Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Steve Gilmore along with friends and family of the squadron.

Commanding officer of 817 Squadron Commander Paul Moggach lead the parade.

He became leader of the squadron in 2009, a squadron he said whose strength was its people.

“There is no greater honour than to serve with officers and sailors who thrive on challenge, show great pride in their work and service and who are passionate about naval aviation,” Commander Moggach said.

“As the final commanding officer of 817 Squadron I am honoured and privileged to service with such a team.”

Commander Moggach gave a speech that was underpinned with pride.

He said it had been an emotional time leading up to the decommissioning. There were tears from the podium and there were tears in the crowd as emotions could not be contained.

He told those gathered that 817 Squadron’s legacy would be that whenever it was called upon to act it made a difference.

The squadron has served the Fleet Air Arm for the past 48 years, it’s members will now move into other squadrons throughout the navy. The Sea Kings will be replaced by the MRH90.

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