NAVAL aviators are accustomed to soaring at great heights and their engineering team helps them to achieve that.
This is usually done from the relative comfort of a helicopter cockpit or a hangar.
But 10 Fleet Air Arm personnel from or attached to HMAS Albatross are poised to step way outside their comfort zones, abseiling down the 26-storey AMP Building in Sydney.
Team Navy – Fleet Air Arm is participating in Abseil for Youth, which provides participants with the combination of a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the opportunity to help raise funds for a great cause – the Sir David Martin Foundation and its work to help youth in crisis.
Sir David served in the Royal Australian Navy for four decades, retiring as a Rear Admiral before being appointed as Governor of NSW.
Team leader and commanding officer of the Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Vince Di Pietro has a personal connection to the foundation, as Sir David Martin was his wife Sandy’s father.
“I was privileged to be present in the room when Sir David Martin challenged us all ‘to create an environment where young people can grow up in safety with hope and with opportunity’,” Commodore Di Pietro said.
“To do this, he had set up the Sir David Martin Foundation only a few days before he left the office of Governor due ill health.
“Regrettably he died two days after leaving Government House.
“So I guess even though he never saw the foundation beyond its start, this is one way where, with the help of our team, we can honour a really worthwhile cause and its founder.”
So far the local Team Navy has raised almost $16,000 for the cause but trails the fund-raising leaders Credit Suisse Adrenalin Enthusiasts.
So far the whole fundraising effort has raised more than $225,000.
“We are going well with our fund-raising but we would certainly love some more local support,” Commodore Di Pietro said.
“There was no shortage of enthusiasm to join in which is remarkable when you consider just how extreme the challenges involved are,” he said.
“But that is one of the aims of the event. If it’s going to attract public attention and raise lots of much needed money for the foundation to continue its good work then it has to be a huge challenge and goal.
“And Abseil for Youth certainly is that.
“Team Navy - Fleet Air Arm is a terrific group of navy people whose day job is to keep navy helicopters flying.
“Like all members of the navy, we are no strangers to service, to serve something bigger than self and to take ourselves out of our comfort zone to get the job done.
“The Abseil for Youth is not charity – it is a chance to raise much needed money to help provide the skills and tools for those young people who for whatever reason need the help and guidance to help themselves.”
He described just how far outside their comfort zones many of the team members were.
“All bar two of us have never abseiled before so it has been a big learning curve,” Commodore Di Pietro said.
“By the time we abseil down
the building we will have
undertaken around five training sessions.”
The team has been practising and honing its techniques under the guidance of Albatross physical training instructor Petty Officer Chris Vale and Chief Petty Officer Dave Eddington at Thompsons Point, west of Nowra, regarded as one of the best rock climbing areas in the world.
“It has been a steep learning curve,” the commodore said after stepping off and negotiating one of the 40-metre cliffs during a recent training exercise.
Headed by Commodore Di Pietro the full Team Navy comprises Commander Grant O’Loughlan, Captain Don Dezentje, Lieutenant Commander Natalee Johnston, Captain Danny Reilly, Commander Cliff Kyle, Commander Mike Waddell, Commander Charlie Stephenson, Lieutenant Comm-ander Roger Smyth and Captain Malcolm Wright.