'I'm the commanding officer of an Australian warship and under my command I have 140 men and 45 women. My day essentially involves driving the warship as the captain and ensuring all the people aboard are performing to the high standards we expect of them as sailors. Typically, I get up at about 5.30 each morning and go to the operations room and the bridge to get a situation awareness of where we are and who's around us, and to speak to my team. If I'm keen, I might go for a run. That's generally around our flight deck - 100 laps is about 5km. I'll then go back to the bridge and operations room. I'm privileged as a captain because, although I work long hours and it has taken me 21 years to get here, I have a valet who looks after me. She does mother me sometimes in a nice way, telling me I need breakfast or to take a break. Generally, if it's busy, I'll have a coffee or Vegemite on toast on the bridge. The ship normally wakes up about 6.30am. Things start happening, watches change and we start looking at the programme for the day - perhaps manoeuvres with another warship, tactics, evolutions and so on. I grew up in Melbourne and joined the navy in 1987 as a 17-year-old, through the Australian Defence Force Academy. Why did I join? Like most 17-year-olds, I had no idea what I was going to do and I was pretty scruffy. I was down at Station Pier, in Melbourne, and I think it was HMAS Darwin that was in for a port visit and they took about 40 or 50 young men and women down to see it. I've never met him, but I remember clear as the day this sub-lieutenant with black uniform and gold stripes walking down the gangway. At that point of my life I'd never met someone who was so together. He'd been around the world, spoke well, looked great - and I thought, 'I want to be just like him.' I went through the academy for my initial training and degree. From there I started specialising as a junior warfare officer, which primarily means going to sea, learning how to defend the ship and working your way towards being a bridge watchkeeper, or officer of the watch. I qualified when I was about 22. It's a big deal when you think about it - you're 22 and you're boss of the watch in the middle of the night, responsible for the safety and operational effectiveness of a A$750 million (HK$5 billion) warship and the 185 people on board. From there I became a specialist in the operations room, which is the technical warfare heart of the ship. I was fortunate in that I was a member of the commissioning crews on a couple of Anzac class ships -the HMAS Arunta as warfare officer, and the HMAS Stuart as executive officer, or second in command. I assumed command of the HMAS Parramatta in December last year. A warship has many roles. It has a war-fighting platform, but it also has roles in operations such as search and rescue, humanitarian aid support, more traditional policing roles such as protecting Australia's ocean borders and, of course, representing Australia overseas. We need to practise to keep at the level of readiness required. And we may also exercise with regional navies, including the People's Liberation Army and navies from Singapore, Malaysia and the US. We do go through fairly high-intensity operational periods and do what's called workups over about a four-week period, where we put the ship and its people through its paces: any task you think a warship might have to do. There are probably at least 100 tasks that need to be tested. At the end of the day, after dinner, which is normally about 7pm, I spend some time on the bridge. I walk around the ship to get a general feel for how it is, but also to speak to people to see how they're feeling. I try and make it to bed about 11pm, but I will be called throughout the evening. In my cabin, I have a direct microphone connection to the bridge and I have another one in my night cabin, next to my bunk. I have a microphone next to my shower and toilet as well. There are specific things that the officer of the watch on the bridge or the person in charge of the operations room must call me for, so that means through the night. For example, in the South China Sea a few nights ago I think I was called at least 50 times. I rely on the information that's given to me to be very accurate, short and concise because, being in and out of sleep all night, you have to receive that information, absorb it and be given options, then make your decision and get back to sleep. If I'm not comfortable, I'll have to get up and go to the bridge, so it can be very long days. I've been fortunate. I've had three overseas postings - to Canada, Malaysia and Bahrain [where his ship was based for extended periods]. I've had operational service mainly in the Middle East theatre as part of the Australian government's commitments in that region. This is my first command and I'm 38. My ideal career move would be to walk off the ship as commanding officer, put on a midshipman's uniform and do the whole lot over again for another 20 years, because it's been such a great, fun ride. My wife, Alex, works in international aid and spends time in the region, in China, Indonesia and Thailand. That makes for challenges with two young children, but I think, in a modern Australian married relationship, you address those challenges as they come up. Now and again I realise the navy is an institution that's gone 100 years before me and it'll go hundreds of years after me, and you've got this very short window where you're actually a part of it. You've got to stop, take a breath and realise that you should take every moment, because one day you won't be in the navy any more. It'll be the young people coming through.'