The late 1980s saw a major change in the RNZN Communications Branch with its incorporation as a sub-trade of the parent ‘Operations Branch’ along with Radar Plotters, Sonarmen, Gunners, Electronic Warfare and Communications Analysts.
1994 saw an even more dramatic change in the direction of the Communications Branch. The eminent delivery of the Navy’s new ANZAC frigates required a rethink of the way we trained and employed our communicators at sea. The main drive for this was the reduced crew numbers and in particular the reduction in Communicator billets from the previous 21 on a Leander frigate to 11 on an ANZAC.
After much deliberation it was concluded that the only way to achieve these numbers was to combine the traditional Radio Operator (RO) and Signalman (SG) trades while consolidating and in some areas reducing the required training. This eventually saw the demise of Aural Morse and Semaphore as trained skills, a reduction in Flashing Light speed to 8 WPM and a lower level of training in fleetwork and radio knowledge at the lower ranks.
A new structure was put in place with the introduction of the cross trained ‘Communications Operator’ (OCO, ACO, LCO). However during the development process it was determined that a need still existed for supervisors specialising in either Radio or Signals knowledge. The branch was therefore structured around Communications Operators being cross-trained in both radio and signals knowledge up to Leading Rank (LCO) with significant importance placed on the training and knowledge at the LCO level. Petty Officers and above would still specialise in Radio or Signals knowledge but due to the progressive knowledge gained in previous ranks, would retain a level of cross knowledge. Since this structure has been in place, there have been a number of other initiatives to reduce the time spent in formal training while retaining the required level of knowledge. These include open learning packages, phased training etc.
Prior to undergoing advanced trade training for promotion to the Petty Officer rank, LCOs select one of two specialisations to follow as a Senior Rating Communicator. These are the traditional Radio Supervisor (RS) or Yeoman of Signals (YS), see current branch structure below.
Communications Branch Structure – Post 1994
Following significant training development work, January 1997 saw the first intake of Communications Operators (COs) commence basic branch training under the new structure. Since that time the branch has seen 7 personnel progress through the system from OCO to PO, with the most recent being promoted in April 2009. To date, 6 LCOs have elected to become Yeoman and one chose to be a Radio Supervisor.
They are listed below in promotion order with a short biography on each:
POYS JON DAGGER – PROMOTED POYS APRIL 2007
Home town – Whangarei
College – Whangarei Boys High School
Joined RNZN – January 1997
Served on – HMNZ Ships Te Mana, Canterbury (F421), Resolution and Te Kaha (As Yeoman)
Remarks – Jon was the first to progress through the new CO trade structure to POYS.
POYS CHERYL WAGNER – PROMOTED POYS MARCH 2008
Home town – Pukenui, Kaitaia
College – Kaitaia College
Joined RNZN – September 1999
Served on – HMNZ Ships Endeavour, Te Kaha, Te Mana and Resolution
Remarks – Cheryl is only the 2nd female POYS in the RNZN, the first being POYS Dawn McClutchie (Rtd) in 2001 under the previous Signalman trade. Cheryl is also a previous recipient of the RNZN Communicator of the Year Award presented by the RNZN Communicators Association.
PORS JULIE CAMPBELL – PROMOTED PORS NOVEMBER 2008
Home town – Waipawa, Hawke’s Bay
College – Central Hawke’s Bay College.
Joined RNZN – January 1999
Served – HMNZ Ships Canterbury (F421), Te Mana and Manawanui.
Remarks – Julie is the first communicator promoted to PORS under the new CO structure and only the 4th female PORS in the RNZN
POYS ANTHONY (ANT) NICHEL – PROMOTED POYS DEC 2008
Home town – Flaxmere, Hawke’s Bay
College –St John’s College
Joined RNZN – September 2000
Served on – HMNZ Ships Te Kaha, Te Mana (as Yeoman) and Canterbury
POYS CHELSEA HEREMAIA – PROMOTED POYS APRIL 2009
Home Town – Auckland – (born in Melbourne)
College – Penrose High School
Joined RNZN – September 2001
Served on – HMNZ Ships Canterbury (F421), Resolution, Te Kaha, Te Mana and Endeavour (As Yeoman)
Remarks – Chelsea is the first female POYS to post to a ship as its Yeoman.