Personnel Exchange Program–Down Under

BY KARLA GABEL
OFFICE OF SUPPLY CORPS PERSONNEL
NAVAL SUPPLY SYSTEMS COMMAND

Lt. Nikolai Ronningen’s time in the Navy has been spent mostly overseas. He enjoys living and working in foreign countries and was thrilled to learn of a Personnel Exchange Program (PEP) opportunity in Western Australia, where he could represent the United States and the Navy. In Sept. 2016, Ronningen began a two-year tour with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

Ronningen is a supportability and performance officer in the Collins-class Submarine System Program Office (COLSPO) on the RAN Navy base, Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Stirling, located on Garden Island. At COLSPO, Ronningen works in supply support, which falls under the Capability Acquisition Sustainment Group (CASG). CASG is an Australian defense organization that oversees the material readiness of the various defense capabilities across the three branches of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). He reports to Lt. Cmdr. Scott Backo, the contractor governance officer for supply support in COLSPO and a maritime logistics officer (MLO). An MLO is the RAN equivalent of a Navy supply officer (SUPPO).

75th anniversary commemoration of HMAS Perth and USS Houston. Lt. Ronningen is standing next to Capt. Brian Delamont, RAN, Commanding Officer of HMAS Stirling, surrounded by members of the Returned and Services League (RSL) and young people from Australia’s Navy and Army Cadets. –photo by Ross Swanborough of the Return & Services League, Western Australia

 

At COLSPO, he works with the sustainment branch of their submarine program. The responsibility of supporting the configuration baseline and spare parts on the submarine has been delegated to commercial industry in-service support contractors (ISSCs). A significant part of his job is providing governance to the ISSCs and ensuring that they comply with the Commonwealth of Australia requirements. Ronningen’s role allows him to draw on his Supply Corps experience as a food service officer for Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia, where he worked closely with contractor personnel who operated the galley on base.

Lt. Ronningen in April 2017 at Kings Park in Perth at the HMAS Perth/USS Houston Memorial Ceremony.

 

Ronningen has had many memorable experiences during his time in the PEP. He participated in the combined, joint and interagency, Talisman Saber 2017 exercise in July, in Queensland. He was embedded with the ADF, working with the CASG and the Maritime Component Command and Fleet Battle Staff. For three weeks, he was in the bush, where he slept under mosquito nets and took bucket showers. During this time, he worked with uniformed personnel from the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

Throughout the year, there are many ceremonies to honor veterans and commemorate campaigns from previous conflicts, often from World War II (WWII). During Ronningen’s posting in Australia, he has had the pleasure of meeting surviving WWII veterans and their families. Two 75th memorial anniversaries were observed this year, including the Battle of Coral Sea and the Battle of Sunda Strait, in which the Australian Leander-class light cruiser HMAS Perth (D 29) and the U.S. Navy’s Northampton-class cruiser USS Houston (CA 30) were sunk.

In October, Ronningen had the honor of meeting Frank Daujat, a U.S. Navy WWII veteran, during a luncheon at HMAS Stirling. Daujat survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor and was on the USS Pennsylvania (BB 38) during the attack. Ronningen said, “this luncheon was a great opportunity to meet someone who has had an incredible experience.” After the war, Daujat immigrated to Western Australia and has lived in Perth since 1948.

Cmdr. William Dull, USN, presented retired United States Navy WWII veteran submariner, Frank Daujat, with an Australian Submariner Dolphin badge alongside his grandson, Damien Embleton-Smith, in the Sir James Stirling Mess during Daujat’s tour of HMAS Stirling. Lt. Ronningen is in the back row on the right. –photo by LSIS Bradley Darvill.

 

“Australia has a strong tradition of honoring its veterans with ceremonies throughout the year. It has been an absolute honor and privilege to attend these events and represent my country and my service. I feel it strengthens the bond between our two nations and I am proud to be a part of that,” stated Ronningen.

While in Western Australia, Ronningen resides in the city of Rockingham, south of Perth and Fremantle, only a 10 minute commute from Garden Island. With its beautiful beaches and mild weather, Western Australia provides lots of recreational opportunities, including outdoor sporting events and concerts.

With his thirst for learning new languages and his interest in different cultures, Ronningen hopes to continue his career overseas. “The PEP in Western Australia has been an amazing opportunity to learn and grow both professionally and personally in another country. It has been the chance of a lifetime to help support and work with an important and strategic ally,” stated Ronningen.

2018|Issue 1