Mine Hunter HMAS Gascoyne has continued her south west Pacific deployment, arriving in Nuku’alofa, Tonga after a four day transit through unrelenting seas from Vanuatu.
“The weather on passage to Tonga was not favourable to conducting all the training we had planned,” Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Aaron Cox.
Not to be deterred, 20 members of ship’s company went straight from the ship when alongside to engage in the local community by painting the interior and installing some lighting in a village medical centre.
This was no small task and personnel applied themselves with vigour and artistic flair. On completion the locals were extremely happy and grateful. Ship’s personnel left with a rewarding feeling and covered in paint!
“This project took just a few hours to complete due to 50 per cent of the crew turning out to lend a hand. However, it meant so much to the local community to have a freshly painted medical centre. A representative of the Tongan Ministry of Health was on hand and was emotional in thanking everyone for their efforts” said Lieutenant Commander Cox.
The next day included a Commanding Officer’s luncheon where Gascoyne was privileged to host the Minister of Agriculture, Chief of the Tongan Defence Service, Australian High Commissioner and several other high ranking dignitaries. This event was extremely well received and the hard work from the Steward and Cooks earned Gascoyne a blessing from the Minister for the trip home.
The ship’s last day in Tonga was also very busy and started with a sports morning involving a round robin of touch football, volleyball and soccer against the Tongan Defence Services, some of whom were about to embark on a deployment to Afghanistan.
This was a privilege for ship’s company and both sides competed very strongly, with the Tongans displaying their natural athletic ability and Gascoyne’s personnel showing true Australian grit and determination.
“No clear winner was defined on the day and both sides displayed great mateship. At the end of the sports day, sides had mixed together in a sign of respect,” said Lieutenant Commander Cox.
On completion Gascoyne presented the Tongan Defence Service with some sporting equipment which was very much appreciated.
Overall Gascoyne’s port visit was busy but very rewarding with the crew involving themselves in the local Tongan community and helping to build successful relationships within the South Pacific.
Gascoyne then set sail for New Caledonia and, according to Lieutenant Commander Cox, hopefully some smoother Pacific waters.