Melissa Girling - Mount Druitt

Published on LEUT Sarah West (author), POIS Ollie Garside (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation SLIPPER, HMAS Newcastle (F06)

Leading Seaman Melissa Girling on the upper decks of HMAS Newcastle. (photo: POIS Ollie Garside)
Leading Seaman Melissa Girling on the upper decks of HMAS Newcastle.

Mount Druitt’s Melissa Girling is the eyes and ears of the Australian warship HMAS Newcastle, which is carrying out operations in the Middle East.

Melissa works in the Operations Room of the Royal Australian Navy warship as it protects shipping from pirates, searches for drug runners and conducts counter terrorism duties as part of Operation SLIPPER.

She’s an Electronic Warfare sailor, responsible for using sensitive computerised electronic receivers that can detect, classify, identify, locate and record activity within the ship’s vicinity.

“EW sailors are the first line of defence. It’s our role to identify potential enemy forces so that Newcastle is prepared to defend herself,” Melissa said.

She also performs another important role onboard Newcastle.

“I am also the ship’s intelligence photographer, so I stand on the bridge and take photos whenever the ship conducts a boarding or anything else out of the ordinary,” she said.

For the former Chifley College student, the worst thing about being deployed on operations is not being able to watch her beloved Canterbury Bulldogs play every weekend.

“I have been a Bulldogs fan since I was four years old, and I have missed so many games since we left Australia,” Melissa said.

“I am also really missing my family. Not being around while my nieces and nephews grow up is hard. They don’t understand why I’m not home,” she said.

The deployment is Melissa’s second to the Middle East in support of Operation SLIPPER since joining the Navy in 2008.

“The highlight has been working with so many different navies from around the world to achieve our mission, and visiting new countries like Tanzania,” she said.

Operation SLIPPER is the Australia Defence Force’s contribution to the International Campaign Against Terrorism, counter smuggling and counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

Newcastle’s current deployment is the 55th rotation of an Australian warship to the Middle East since 1990. She is due to return to Australia in October.

Additional imagery is available at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20130692.