30 September 2013
LT Ashley Owen on-board HMNZS TE MANA at the naval base in Sydney
It took only a naval adventure challenge for Ashley Owen of Palmerston North to discover that she could combine two great loves, of the sea and engineering, by becoming a Royal New Zealand Navy Marine Engineering Officer.
Now, as the frigate HMNZS Te Mana prepares in Australia for deployment to the northern Indian Ocean for counter-piracy duties, Lieutenant (LT) Owen is the ship's Deputy Marine Engineering Officer - second in charge of the marine engineering department .
It's a busy role, she says.
"I look after the welfare and careers of my division of marine technicians, manage and conduct fuelling and ballasting, manage stability, maintenance periods and liaising with contractors, deputise for the Engineer if he's away, and ensure that the CO is briefed on the engineering department and its status . . . and these are just some of my departmental jobs. A ship's officer also has several general jobs such as being the Officer of the Day, the Visit Liaison Officer for overseas ports, and working on health and safety management in the ship."
LT Owen joined the Navy at 17, straight from Palmerston North Girls’ High School and the youngest in her intake at Officer Training School.
"Then from 2006 to 2009 the Navy put me through the University of Auckland, where I gained a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Mechanical Engineering. After finishing my degree it was off to the United Kingdom to begin my marine engineering qualification. This involved six months learning about marine engineering systems and then six months on the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean. While I was on board HMS Ocean I visited the USA, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Portugal. I loved the port visits but I also realised how lucky I am to come from a place like New Zealand!
"After another six months back in England I gained my marine engineering qualification, and on return to New Zealand I joined HMNZS Canterbury where I completed my engineering charge qualification and became a Deputy Engineering Officer.
"This means that I am qualified to take out an offshore patrol vessel (such as HMNZS Otago or HMNZS Wellington) as the Engineer, and later, on promotion, to be the Engineer on HMNZS Canterbury and HMNZS Endeavour.
"I was posted to HMNZS Te Mana in August, and after completing training and other activities in Australia we will be heading for the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea to carry out maritime security duties as part of the multi-national task force there, combating piracy in that region.
"On this trip I am aiming to gain my marine engineering charge which will qualify me to be the Marine Engineering Officer of HMNZS Te Mana and HMNZS Te Kaha.
"Hopefully my next sea posting will be as the Engineer on an offshore patrol vessel such as HMNZS Otago."
Away from engines LT Owen is a keen sportswoman.
"I love football and play both summer and winter seasons. Sometimes it may only be for half of the season, but the North Shore clubs are accustomed to Navy personnel coming and going. I also love diving, snorkelling and fishing. When I was on HMNZS Canterbury and we went to the Pacific Islands I dived or snorkelled at every port stop."
She's in no doubt about the Navy's significant contribution to New Zealand and the region.
"The Navy does important work, especially in our own Pacific Islands region, and in providing aid and support to countries that have not enjoyed the peace and prosperity that we have here in New Zealand.
"I'm having a fantastic career ... a great education and job, great travel and working with great people. I have had opportunities to advance as an engineer quicker than my mates from university, and I have travelled around a good part of the world in the process. I'm living a very full life and I know my family is extremely proud of what I've achieved.
"I love the camaraderie amongst the stokers (that's Navy-speak for engineers). It's the best branch in the Navy - we always look out for each other and we always have a good time, even when something goes wrong . Once on my birthday the main engine lubrication oil filter exploded and sprayed oil around most of the engine room and it took till midnight to clean it all up – I still had to shout but it was Coke instead of a round at the pub!
"It’s almost a completely male branch (there are about 12 women), but I don’t mind, because it makes no difference, we are all one big family. I look out for my people and they look out for me. I wouldn’t have it any other way."
For more information contact, Defence Communications Group, 021 487 980