On 9 December, just prior to departing the wharf on patrol, HMAS Huon’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Thomas Mobbs, mustered the ship’s company for a clear lower deck for what the Commanding Officer, Commander Richard Caton, thought would be a routine pre-sailing discussion of the coming program.
Commander Caton was awarded a Silver Commendation from the Deputy Chief of Joint Operations for his "outstanding devotion to duty and delivering outstanding operational results as Chief of Staff to Commander Joint Task Force 663 during the planning and conduct of Operation RENDER SAFE 2013, the Australian led regional assistance operation focused on the clearing of World War Two remnants of war from the South West Pacific."
Commodore Smyth echoed the comments made in the commendation, noting Commander Caton’s extensive understanding of the region, knowledge of the South Pacific geopolitical and cultural sensitivities, and ability to engage fully at all level of government, helped maximise the impact of operations across Central Provence, Solomon Islands during the operational deployment.
“Not only did Operation RENDER SAFE 2013 reduce the threat from explosive hazards across areas on Central Provence Solomon Islands, it also enhanced the reputation of the Australian Defence Force and its allied partners across the South Pacific region," Commodore Smyth said.
Commander Caton said that his task was facilitated by the outstanding efforts of Australian Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving personnel, as well as Explosive Ordance Device qualified personnel from New Zealand, USA, Canada and the Solomon Islands assigned to the operation.
At the end of the operation more than 12,000 individual items of unexploded ordnance totalling over 20,000kg were cleared from waterways, farms, gardens and residential areas in the Solomon Islands. In addition, a number of schools, a women's shelter and an orphanage had been rebuilt as part of the community outreach during the operation.
"Any success an officer enjoys in the Navy is a result of the team that supports them and I have been lucky to have good teams to work with, on RENDER SAFE and as Commanding Officer HMAS Huon.
"The commendation and the promotion belongs as much to the efforts of those teams as to any contribution of my own," Commander Caton said.
He also noted that the clear lower deck had been probably the most embarrassing one he had been to.
Commodore Smyth and Captain Parker also took the opportunity to thank Huon’s personnel for their efforts in Operation RESOLUTE to date. On completion of the clear lower deck, Huon departed on patrol, which would include an eagerly anticipated port visit to Dili, East Timor. Huon will operating in support of Operation RESOLUTE until February 2015.