Busy naval base plays host to Exercise KAKADU

Published on LEUT Des Paroz (author), LSIS Paul McCallum (photographer), ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Coonawarra

Topic(s): Exercise KAKADU

Executive Officer HMAS Coonawarra, Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Mick Doncaster, CSM, RAN at the wharf of HMAS Coonawarra in Darwin, Northern Territory.  (photo: LSIS Paul McCallum)
Executive Officer HMAS Coonawarra, Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Mick Doncaster, CSM, RAN at the wharf of HMAS Coonawarra in Darwin, Northern Territory.

Known as the homeport for most of the Armidale Class Patrol Boat fleet of the Royal Australia Navy (RAN), Darwin’s HMAS Coonawarra is currently playing host to the Navy’s largest multinational warfare exercise, Exercise KAKADU 2014.

Coonawarra’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Mick Doncaster, described the opportunities of welcoming the Australian and international participants to such a major Exercise whilst ensuring that the demands of a busy operational base continue to be met.

“Exercise KAKADU is an important activity in Navy’s efforts to raise, train and sustain a premier warfighting capability, but we have to superimpose all these efforts over a very busy operational base.

Coonawarra is actually Australia’s busiest naval base, when you consider the volume of vessel movements moving through Darwin.

“In addition to almost daily movements by Armidale Class Patrol Boats and other minor war vessels, Darwin hosts over 100 Australian and international major fleet units each year,” Lieutenant Commander Doncaster said.

The major daily tasking for the men and women of Coonawarra revolves around supporting Armidale Class Patrol Boats.

From left, Executive Officer HMAS Coonawarra, Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Mick Doncaster, CSM, RAN, and Lieutenant Commander Trevor Keith Henderson, Manager Fleet Support Unit North (right) conduct a tour with Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer, CSC and Bar, RAN of HMAS Coonawarra during Exercise KAKADU 2014.

From left, Executive Officer HMAS Coonawarra, Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Mick Doncaster, CSM, RAN, and Lieutenant Commander Trevor Keith Henderson, Manager Fleet Support Unit North (right) conduct a tour with Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer, CSC and Bar, RAN of HMAS Coonawarra during Exercise KAKADU 2014.

“There is a constant operational pressure to ensure that we can put the Patrol Boat crews to sea so that they can meet the taskings required by the Government.

“It is a huge team effort that evolves every officer and sailor at Coonawarra, along with Patrol Boat headquarters and Systems Program Office, Defence Maritime Services, the Fleet Support Unit and the Fleet Logistics Support Element, among other,” Lieutenant Commander Doncaster said.

For Navy members and their families, living inDarwinpresents unique opportunities and challenges, many brought about by the tropical climate ofAustralia’s northern-most capital.

“Where southern locations generally enjoy four seasons each year, Darwin experiences two distinct cycles – a ‘Dry Season’ and a ‘Wet Season’, although the latter might also be called a Cyclone Season.

“Everyone has to take a very different posture in the two cycles.

“For the team at Coonawarra, we have to take care of all maintenance and construction activities in the Dry Season, and then we have to prepare for the Cyclone Season.

“To put it in Naval terminology, we have to ‘prepare the whole base for sea’,” Lieutenant Commander Doncaster said.

Coonawarra is located within Larrakeyah Barracks in central Darwin, and is the home port of 10 Armidale Class Patrol Boats, and some 650 officers and sailors.