Far away from backyard barbies, beach cricket and fireworks, up to 800 Defence Force personnel, on land, at sea, and in the air, kept a diligent watch over northern waters during the Australia Day long weekend, 2014.
But despite the hard work, the recognition of the country’s national day of celebration wasn’t lost on the service personnel serving as part of the Joint Task Force 639 in Operation RESOLUTE.
Armidale Class Patrol Boat crew Assail Two, embarked in HMAS Broome conducted maritime patrols north of the Tiwi Islands on Australia Day. Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Gemma Mountney RAN said the crew took a brief pause in operations for the all important, ‘great Aussie barbie’.
“The barbeque was organised and cooked by the Junior Sailors Technical Department and consisted of sausages and onions, chicken kebabs, homemade rissoles, lamb chops, coleslaw and garden salad - all the Aussie favourites,” she said.
“We tuned in to the Triple J Hottest 100 countdown on the ship’s speakers and everyone dressed up in their best Aussie rig - singlets and football jerseys - for lunch,” she said.
Assail Two was one of six Armidale Class Patrol Boat crews at sea, joined by minor war vessel HMAS Melville and major fleet unit HMAS Parramatta over the three day weekend. In the air, Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft conducted long range surveillance missions as far out as the Cocos Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean, 2000 nautical miles from Darwin.
Leading Seaman Marine Technician Alan Rickard said to be a Navy member serving on operations has a special significance on Australia Day.
“Like most people in the country, we all have a perfect place that we’d rather be; like barbeques with our families, or a day at the beach, but those thoughts were fleeting as Assail Two woke to a magnificent sunrise east of the Tiwi Islands,” he said.
“Being at sea gives us even more perspective, about what it means to be Australian, about how proud we are of the country we call home, and about how we contribute to the nation by doing our job out at sea.
“When you share this reflection with your ship mates and friends, it’s a very rewarding experience,” he said.
Deputy Commander of the Joint Task Force 639, Commodore Brenton Smyth said Australia Day was an opportunity for all Australians to reflect on what we have achieved as a nation and what we can be proud of.
“Our personnel assigned to maritime security operations are no exception, as they contribute to protecting Australia's national security interests in the marine domain with diligence and professionalism,” he said.