DOUG Theobald thought his 25-year navy career was behind him when he was managing a hotel in Inverness, Scotland in 2014 after resigning from the service in 2009.
But a surprise phone call asking him to return to submarine service paved the way for began a challenging new journey which culminated in him being awarded a Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC) in yesterday’s Australia Day honours list.
Commander Theobald (47) said he wasn’t initially interested in rejoining the navy but was persuaded to resume his career.
He was fast-tracked onto the HMAS Rankin as its commanding officer for the second time in January 2015 after undertaking refresher training and embarking on a “steep learning curve”.
He received the CSC for “outstanding achievement in the field of submarine operations and fleet anti-submarine warfare”.
“Commander Theobald has made an outstanding contribution to deployed submarine operations, training and anti-submarine warfare exercises, which have led to enhancements in the warfighting capability of the Royal Australian Navy,” his citation read.
“His leadership, innovation and drive have been instrumental in contributing to increased effectiveness of the submarine force through the training and development of personnel in deployed submarine operations.”
The submarine has picked up a swag of awards over the past two years, including the Platypus Cup for being the best submarine for two years in a row. It was also the second-best fleet unit in 2015 and went one better last year, winning the navy’s coveted Gloucester Cup.
Cmdr Theobald said he was honoured to receive the award.
“It was fitting recognition of the hard work the team put in throughout two years of my command,” he said.
“This award is due to the outstanding efforts of not only the crew but also the supporting agencies. We had a reliable submarine that performed exceptionally well through a demanding but rewarding operational program. Particularly for the last year, HMAS Rankin operated away from her homeport for nine months with minimal fuss.”
Cmdr Theobald praised his tight-knit crew who walked the 1000 kilometre Bibbulmun track in relay teams, raising $11,000 for Beyond Blue and to mark the end of an extraordinary two-year experience on the submarine.
“We had a great crew and a great boat and I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” he said.”
Cmdr Theobald relinquished command of HMAS Rankin last December and is now working on submarine projects in Rhode Island, USA.
He celebrated Australia Day with some Australian colleagues yesterday, sharing some pies, sausage rolls and lamingtons.
He said the occasion was an opportunity to reflect on what the nation had achieved and what it could do better in the future.