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Maritime Logistics Community News : November 2009
53 NAVY SUPPLY NEWSLETTER SPRING 2009 Reaction 1 – it is a chance to appreciate our finer naval traditions, enjoy extraordinarily good food, and cringe at our attempts of witty repartee. Reaction 2 – it is a lot of hard work in and outside of working hours especially if you happen to be a steward, cook, or Supply Officer! Having held a mess dinner onboard HMAS MELBOURNE recently, I realised that a mess dinner means so much more... The opportunities for mess dinners within the current operational tempo and budget may be few and far between for many sea-going units; but for a ship coming out of refit which is trying to find its flippers, there are many benefits of hosting a mess dinner and not just for the Supply Department, but the ship as a whole. For Supply, it is an opportunity for training and competency progression, for leadership and development of the Leading Seaman who may be encouraged to try their hand at coordinating the event, and last but not least, for fostering professional pride and teamwork. In terms of the whole ship, there was not a single department who did not contribute in some way. The Greenies helped with the sound system, the Dibbies constructed the Flight Deck marquee and lighting, the Communicators loaned their comms flags for decoration, and the Stokers, well, they just kept the ship running in general. As for the Wardroom and WOs/CPOs Mess, this was their first function since the ship returned from sea six months earlier, so the officers and senior sailors could bond and reflect on their grass roots traditions. Preparations began weeks earlier, first by scouting for any local stewards or cooks who required completion of related competencies, who were also volunteers to augment ship staff and were releasable from their own places of work. Fortunately the supply network rallied to our cause and assistance was identified for the night. Then began the development of menus and creation of recipes which would utilise seasonal fruits and complement the weather, which for us was an un-seasonally balmy winter’s night. The cooks chopped, primed and moulded each dish into a creative delicacy, thus proving their skill and versatility in reverting from bulk cooking to gourmet. The XO, as Wardroom Mess President, received regular briefings on the plans from the LSSTD and LSCK, proving that it all requires considerable project management and foresight to ensure a smooth evolution on the night. The plan for menus, drinks, music, buglers and speeches ensured that the XO’s expectations as the ‘customer’ were met. However, always being prepared for the odd request, eg. Has anyone heard of a horse’s neck? Two minutes of googling later, we confirmed that a ‘horse’s neck’ is a type of drink made up of brandy and ginger ale. Apparently it is a popular aperitif of the Mother Country, and traditionally accompanied by Pimms and lemonade and G&Ts. The table-settings and location were also about ensuring the requisite attention to detail. It helped to be berthed at FBE West Dock Wall, with the view from the flight deck encompassing Sydney Harbour and the Bridge. Photoshop finish! We took a gamble that the weather would hold suitably for dinner on the Flight Deck, and despite a couple of changes in wind-direction and marquee skirting, our luck held. Wardroom funds went towards the decoration of the tables: floral arrangements of Australian wildflowers, candles (that on the whole remained alight) in silver candelabras, and printed formal menus. All these aspects, as well as the music-mix emanating from my iPod, contributed to a majestic ambience which reflected the ceremony and beauty of the dinner itself. The bugle call to dinner echoed across the dock and the guests were seated to begin their culinary experience, and fight for control of the Mess President’s gavel. Some traditions progressed well, particularly the passing of the port and mess fines. Others slipped away where one officer (who shall remain unnamed, but suffice to say was not a supply officer) pre-empted the order to ‘Ease Springs’ hence almost single-handedly paying for the after party with his ensuing fines. A skit was also performed between ‘Lord Nelson’ and his adviser which wittily emphasised how the Navy had changed over the centuries with the continual expansion of political correctness and equal opportunities. But jokes about red tape aside, there is not a prouder moment for a Supply Officer than having the department coordinate and conduct a successful mess dinner. This is a prime event which allows us to ‘show off’ and demonstrate the standard of hospitality and management skills which are so highly sought after outside the navy, yet we own within. The cooks and stewards really get to shine, and be publicly acknowledged for their unique skills and professionalism. Such an opportunity is invaluable, and surely surpasses the inconveniences of working towards one night. And particularly, it is ALL about Supply. Many thanks and appreciation goes to LSCK Nadia Telling and LSSTD Matt McDonald who were directly responsible for the quality of the food and hospitality throughout MELBOURNE’s Mess Dinner. The photos speak for themselves. It’s more than just a Mess Dinner BY LCDR REBECCA LEVITT, RAN There are two standard responses at the mention of ‘Let’s have a mess dinner!’...