Friendships forged over 40 years a foundation to Pacific Partnership

This article has photo gallery Published on SQNLDR Trevor Grant (author), MC2 William Cousins (photographer)

Location(s): Kuantan, Malaysia

Deputy Mission Commander Pacific Partnership 2016, Royal Australian Navy (RANR) Captain Mike Spruce rekindles an old friendship with Commander Naval Region One, Royal Malaysian Navy Rear Admiral Azhari Rashid during a Pacific Partnership 2016 opening ceremony in Kuantan, Malaysia.  (photo: MC2 William Cousins)
Deputy Mission Commander Pacific Partnership 2016, Royal Australian Navy (RANR) Captain Mike Spruce rekindles an old friendship with Commander Naval Region One, Royal Malaysian Navy Rear Admiral Azhari Rashid during a Pacific Partnership 2016 opening ceremony in Kuantan, Malaysia.

When Captain Mike Spruce stepped ashore in Kuantan, Malaysia, for the Pacific Partnership 2016 opening ceremony, the last person he expected to see was an old friend.
 
Admiral Azhari Bin Adbul Rashid, Commander, Naval District One, of the Malaysian Navy met Captain Spruce, the Deputy Mission Commander for Pacific Partnership 2016, at HMAS Creswell in 1978 when both men were attending basic junior officers’ navigation training.
 
During their course, then Midshipman Spruce and Midshipman Rashid spent several weeks in Jervis Bay, New South Wales, learning astro-navigation before moving to Sydney's HMAS Watson for coastal navigation training.
 
Once completed, the pair joined HMAS Jervis Bay for a navigation training cruise to New Zealand.
 
Captain Spruce said the coincidental meeting almost 40 years in the making proved how small the world really is.
 
“We both looked at each other and said ‘I know you’,” he said.
 
Captain Spruce was a member of the 1976 Creswell course when he was first introduced to the concept of working alongside foreign naval officers through the FOSLEX (Foreign Officer Supplementary List Executive Course) scheme.
 
“There were eight PNG, two Philippine, two Malaysian and two Fijian officers on the course,” he said.
 
“Two that stood out particularly were Azhari Bin Adbul Rashid and a Fijian officer, Josaia ‘Frank’ Bainimarama, who later became the Fijian president (2006-2014).”
 
After the official opening of Pacific Partnership 2016 in Kuantan, Captain Spruce and Admiral Rashid were able to reminisce about days past and the friendship that they still share after not seeing each other for nearly 40 years.
 
“One thing that I love about the Navy is that when you make friends, they are friends for life,” Captain Spruce said.
 
“Especially friendships you make under training."
 
Captain Spruce said that at the time he didn’t realise the importance of working with members of foreign militaries.
 
“It’s later in life that you understand just how important training and forming those relationships can be,” he said.
 
“Meeting in Kuantan, for Pacific Partnership, after so long was like we had seen each other only a few weeks ago.
 
“That is a lasting professional relationship and friendship.”
  
Captain Spruce reminisced about a few moments in particular.

"Learning the finer arts of seamanship from Warrant Officer Quartermaster Gunner 'Butch' Berry, watching the best game of rugby I have ever seen when the New Zealand Barbarians played a World XV rugby side at Eden Stadium in Auckland and finally, Bluff oysters,” he said.
 
Pacific Partnership is the largest multinational humanitarian assistance disaster relief preparedness mission in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, which was born out of the response to a 2004 tsunami that devastated many parts of south-east Asia.
 
Over the past 11 years, Pacific Partnership has grown from providing direct care to a more focused mission with in-depth planning, aimed at collective capacity building and knowledge exchange and to provide the best possible joint support and response to any region affected by natural disasters. Australia has been an active participant every year since its inception.