Christmas on the Middle East 'battle watch'

Published on CPL Mark Doran (author and photographer)

Topic(s): Operation MANITOU, Counter-terrorism

Royal Australian Navy officer Lieutenant Gemma Casserly is deployed as a Battlewatch Captain with Combined Task Force 150 in Bahrain for Operation MANITOU.  (photo: CPL Mark Doran)
Royal Australian Navy officer Lieutenant Gemma Casserly is deployed as a Battlewatch Captain with Combined Task Force 150 in Bahrain for Operation MANITOU.

Forster's Gemma Casserly had to keep her Christmas cheer to the side in December, to focus on preventing maritime drug smugglers in the Middle East region as part of Operation MANITOU.
 
The Royal Australian Navy officer, Lieutenant Casserly is on her first operational deployment and is working with Combined Task Force 150 as part of the Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain.
 
Combined Task Force 150 is responsible for maritime security in order to counter terrorist acts and related illegal activities, which terrorists use to fund or conceal their movements, at sea in the Middle East. 
 
“Ours is one of several task forces falling under the command of the multinational Combined Maritime Forces, which undertakes a range of maritime security operations in the region,” she said.
 
“Its area of operations spans more than two million square miles, covering the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, the North Arabian Sea and Western Indian Ocean.” 
 
Lieutenant Casserly, a 'Battle Watch Captain', said she was the conduit of information between what was happening at sea in the area of operations and the decisions made by the headquarters.
 
“We gather all the information and distribute it as needed to the ships in the area,” she said.
 
“I’m excited to be part of a multinational force consisting of troops from 30 nations who contribute to the mission, and I’m looking forward to the professional experience of working in a strategic role.
 
“Recent world events have given me a sharper perspective of our mission, and the Paris Attacks, which happened just before we deployed, made it hit even harder.
 
“We have an important role in the Middle East and we will do our best to stop the flow of any products that are helping to fund terrorist activities.”

Royal Australian Navy officer Lieutenant Gemma Casserly and a sailor with the United States Navy enjoy the Christmas spirit at the Naval Support Activity in Bahrain.

Royal Australian Navy officer Lieutenant Gemma Casserly and a sailor with the United States Navy enjoy the Christmas spirit at the Naval Support Activity in Bahrain.


Lieutenant Casserly is deployed with a team of 20 Australians, including a Defence civilian and an Australian Federal Police officer, and seven Royal Canadian Navy personnel for the five-month deployment.
 
The two nations join a list of some 30 nations, such as Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Republic of Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States.
 
Lieutenant Casserly joined the Royal Australian Navy in 2006 as soon as she finished high school and studied at the Australian Defence Force Academy to become a Maritime Warfare Officer.
 
“I wanted an exciting job and to travel,” she said.
 
“The Navy said they would let me drive ships that would take me to places around the world.”

“It can be a challenge to be at sea or away from home so much while maintaining relationships with family and friends,” she said. 

Lieutenant Casserly said the best part of being in the Navy was the camaraderie in what was a unique workforce.