A FAMILIAR face is back at HMAS Albatross as Commander of the Fleet Air Arm.
Commodore Vince Di Pietro has had a long association with Albatross throughout his 37-year naval career.
In his role as Commander, Fleet Air Arm (COMFAA) he is responsible for the operations, capability management, preparedness, safety and business management of naval aviation, including the helicopter squadrons based at HMAS Albatross.
“It is great to be back at HMAS Albatross and wonderful to be back in Nowra,” he said.
“So much has changed both at the base and in the town since my last posting. It is fantastic to see how much both have grown.
“Nowra always has a special place in both my wife Sandy’s and my hearts; it is where two of our three daughters were born.”
Commodore Di Pietro’s association with HMAS Albatross goes back to December 1975, when as a 16-year-old he visited family friends at the base.
He joined the navy the following year and by January 1978 was back, having completed pilot training.
Since then he has flown more than 5000 hours on numerous aircraft, both rotary and fixed wing.
He says the introduction of the new MRH90 and MH-60R Romeo helicopters was exciting for the navy and in particular HMAS Albatross.
“What a wonderful time to be a naval aviator; these two helicopters are superb,” he said.
“I wouldn’t be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit envious of the next generation of pilots who will get to fly these two helicopters.”
The MRH90s are undergoing testing, having completed their first at-sea deployment outside of first-of-class trials, while teams are preparing to leave for the United States to start training on the new Romeos.
“I feel we have bought a great capability in the Romeos.
“I have flown in them four times and they are a wonderful aircraft.”
Having been involved in the first pick-up of the Seahawks in 1988, he knows what the pilots and teams are feeling.
“It is a really exciting time for everyone. We are getting six of the MRH90s and 24 of the Romeos, which is our biggest single purchase of aircraft.
“By the end of 2014 we hope to have between seven and 10 aircraft at the base.”
He said the roll-on effect of the new squadrons at HMAS Albatross would greatly benefit the Shoalhaven.
“With the facilities that will come with those aircraft including the training centre, it is a great investment not only in Albatross but the Shoalhaven,” he said.
“Many of our personnel may arrive in town by themselves, but invariably they meet a local and get married, buy houses and eventually have kids – that all rolls into the community, as will this expansion.
“And we encourage the personnel to integrate throughout the community – they get involved in local sporting clubs and other organisations, their children go to local schools.
“I love to see people involved in their local community and that includes wearing our uniforms into Nowra.”
With Australian troops being withdrawn from various conflicts around the world he doesn’t see that affecting the base or its squadrons.
“We have had a presence in the Middle East ever since the mid 1970s and we have had at least one ship in that region since the mid 1980s,” he said.
“Australia has an obligation to offer support and that is usually in the form of a warship and they usually have helicopters attached to them.
“Where required, we will provide aircraft, internationally or at home – just in the recent bushfire emergency the base facilities were provided for the many aircraft that were fighting the fires.”