Brisbane Man Answers the Call of the Sea

Published on CPL Mark Doran (author and photographer)

Topic(s): Operation MANITOU, HMAS Melbourne (F05)

Royal Australian Navy sailor Seaman Communications Information Systems Blake Ridge breaks HMAS Melbourne's International Callsign aboard the warship.
Seaman Ridge is deployed aboard HMAS Melbourne, which is patrolling the Middle East Region as part of Operation Manitou.  (photo: Corporal Mark Doran)
Royal Australian Navy sailor Seaman Communications Information Systems Blake Ridge breaks HMAS Melbourne's International Callsign aboard the warship. Seaman Ridge is deployed aboard HMAS Melbourne, which is patrolling the Middle East Region as part of Operation Manitou.

The suburbs of Brisbane couldn't contain Blake Ridge's desire for adventure.

The former Mitchelton man has literally heard the call of the sea and taken on a floating telecommunications career with Navy.

Right now he is also playing a part in the fight against international terrorism.

Seaman Communications Information Systems Ridge is deployed aboard HMAS Melbourne, which is patrolling the Middle East region on Operation Manitou, Australia's contribution to the multinational Combined Maritime Forces (CMF).

He is a member of a team responsible for maintaining the warship's telecommunications and information systems.

After completing his studies at Mitchelton State High School, the former rugby league referee worked in distribution before deciding on a career in the Navy.

Seaman Ridge said he enlisted in 2014 because he wanted to serve his country and see the world.

Once he decided to join Navy his trade choice was easy.

"I have always been interested in the field of communications," he said.

"I enjoyed the challenges of recruit school at HMAS Cerberus in Victoria as it was a totally new experience."

Learning a new trade also allowed Seaman Ridge to learn some old-fashioned skills which rarely break down at sea.

"While we use state-of-the-art technology on Melbourne, we still use signal flags and occasionally even Morse code with signal lights when communicating between Australian ships at sea," he said.

Seaman Ridge said becoming a sailor took effort and dedication.

"It was a total lifestyle change to become sailor at sea and be living in a rack [bed] with three drawers and two lockers," he said.

"However I have adjusted well and am enjoying Navy life."

Melbourne
is conducting maritime security operations with CMF's Combined Task Force 150, which undertakes patrols in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf to intercept vessels smuggling drugs that help fund international terrorism.

SMN Ridge said it was a fast-paced environment aboard the warship during his first operational deployment.

"It’s a tight ship and everyone has their part to play," he said.

"Melbourne's crew is fantastic, everybody is friendly, says hello and everyone loves keeping fit.

"We are all proud to be on Operation Manitou and be involved in the search for illegal drugs in the Arabian Gulf.

"I am excited to be on this deployment because we are helping to defend Australia's interests.

"We are also working with coalition forces to help the rest of the world by stopping funds for terrorism."

On Melbourne's first patrol of 2015, the crew intercepted, boarded and searched a fishing dhow suspected of illegal activity in the Arabian Sea.

During the search 427kg of heroin was seized and brought onboard for identification and disposal.

The value of the drugs was close to AU$127M.

Seaman Ridge said he was looking forward to taking leave in Brisbane next year and catching up with family in Mitchelton.

"It will be great to have a few beers with my mates and hopefully get up to the Sunshine Coast to relax," he said.