Tobruk brings sailors, soldiers and equipment home

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Location(s): Townsville, QLD

A back-hoe from 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment is loaded for return to Australia on HMAS Tobruk after completing recovery tasks in the Philippines. (photo: MAJ Chris Linden)
A back-hoe from 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment is loaded for return to Australia on HMAS Tobruk after completing recovery tasks in the Philippines.

Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Tobruk has returned to Townsville to disembark 35 Army personnel and unload equipment following Australian Defence Force Humanitarian Disaster Relief (HADR) operations in the Philippines.

HMAS Tobruk departed Townsville on 18 November 2013 with an embarked Army Recovery Support Force (RSF), medium landing craft (LCM8) and a Navy MRH 90 in response to the devastating effects of Tropical Cyclone Haiyan.

Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Ash Power, said the return of HMAS Tobruk marked the drawdown of our response to the Philippine Government’s request for assistance.

“This cyclone devastated parts of the Philippines and our people have contributed directly to assist their recovery and get their lives back to normal,” Lieutenant General Power said.

“We have very hard working people in the ADF. They have worked tirelessly to assist in the multi-national response and we can be very proud of what they have achieved.

“I was fortunate to spend a night onboard HMAS Tobruk and spoke with the hard-working sailors and officers onboard - it’s good to see them getting home to their families in time for Christmas after doing an outstanding job here.

“I was also impressed with the work of the Army Recovery Support Force, from rebuilding schools and facilities, to clearing areas of debris. These soldiers have enabled children to return to a daily routine and allowed communities to begin rebuilding their lives.

“The job is not over though - we still have Air Force and Army personnel remaining behind to finish off the final tasks but all personnel should be home for Christmas.”

Commanding Officer of HMAS Tobruk, Commander Leif Maxfield, said the Ship’s Company was looking forward to getting home after leaving Sydney on 20 October 2013 bound for tasks in Solomon Islands.

“This is our job, we love doing it and it is good that we have been able to positively effect the recovery of these areas of the Philippines in the lead up to Christmas,” Commander Maxfield said.

“Ship’s Company and Army personnel have worked incredibly hard onboard to achieve some amazing results and it’s great that we have been able to complete everything asked of us and be on our way home in time to spend Christmas with our own families.”

The Amphibious Landing Ship arrived in Ormoc Bay on 26 November 2013 and conducted an amphibious lodgement of the embarked Army Recovery Support Force. Ship’s Company then joined Army personnel for clean up tasks with Army engineers at schools in the Ormoc region.

After assisting with clean up tasks in Ormoc, the ship sailed to Cebu on the evening of 1 December 2013 and loaded 110 tonnes of relief supplies from the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Philippine Government.

“On 2 December we distributed the aid to remote islands in the Visayas archipelago to the North of Cebu. This entire task was completed on 6 December 2013.”

Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft and personnel will remain in the Philippines over the coming days as they complete tasks as part of Operation PHILIPPINES ASSIST.

RAAF aircraft have transported more than 2,250 tonnes of humanitarian and disaster relief cargo since the start of Operation PHILIPPINES ASSIST, transported more than 5,880 people from Tacloban to Mactan and Guiuan Air Fields and moved more than 3,390 internally displaced people.

The Australian Defence Force contribution to the response to Tropical Cyclone Haiyan started on 13 November 2013 after a request for support from the Philippine Government and commitment from the Australian Government to provide assistance.