From Tasmania to the Middle East

Published on CPL Mark Doran (author and photographer)

Location(s): Manama, Bahrain

Topic(s): Drug interdiction, Counter-terrorism

Royal Australian Navy sailor Able Seaman (AB) Communications Information Systems Kelsie Wright, from Tasmania, is a member of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150) based at the Naval Support Activity in Manama, Bahrain. AB Wright is a computer network manager. (photo: Corporal Mark Doran)
Royal Australian Navy sailor Able Seaman (AB) Communications Information Systems Kelsie Wright, from Tasmania, is a member of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150) based at the Naval Support Activity in Manama, Bahrain. AB Wright is a computer network manager.

Royal Australian Navy sailor, Able Seaman Communication and Information Systems Kelsie Wright, is a member of Combined Task Force 150 based at the Naval Support Activity in Manama, Bahrain. The 22-year-old Launceston woman is contributing to Australia's commitment to combat terrorists in the Middle East.
 
The task force is responsible for the interception of drugs at sea in the Middle East and is one of several task forces that fall under the command of the multinational Combined Maritime Forces, which undertakes a range of maritime security operations in the region.
 
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. 
 
Able Seaman Wright said she joined the Navy once she had finished her studies at Exeter High School in the Tamar Valley.
 
"I was 19-years-old and in search of adventure," she said.
 
"Some of my cousins are in the Navy and my brother, Seaman Aidan Wright, has just joined as well as an electronics technician.
 
"The family joke is the Wrights will one day take over the service."
 
Able Seaman Wright first deployed with the Navy on HMAS Choules to Bougainville in 2014 for Operation RENDER SAFE, which is a regional program to remove unexploded bombs, weapons and ammunition remaining from the Second World War.
 
She has now deployed to the Middle East with a team that includes 17 Australian sailors, an Australian Army soldier, a Defence civilian, an Australian Federal Police officer and seven Royal Canadian Navy sailors for the five-month operation.
 
Able Seaman Wright said her main role in Bahrain was as a computer network manager, which required her to facilitate her team's access to the separate Australian local area network.
 
"It will be hard work to set up the network at first, but then I will be able to be involved in other aspects of the mission," she said.
 
"The plan is for me to do shifts as a Battle Watch Assistant in the Operations Room."
 
Also assigned to the task force is the Australian warship HMAS Melbourne, which throughout 2015 seized significant quantities of heroin being smuggled in dhows in the waters of the Middle East.
 
Able Seaman Wright said she was excited to be a part of the mission.
 
"People have been asking if I am nervous to be here, but I am not at all, this is a great deployment to be a part of and it is a great team," she said.
 
"The culture in Bahrain is very different to what I have experienced, as we live in the community near the base, but the food is amazing and the locals are friendly.
 
"The base for the Naval Support Activity hosts personnel from 30 nations, so it is taking me a while to figure out who to salute."
 
Nations contributing include Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Republic of Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States.
 
Able Seaman Wright said mateship was one of the best things about being a sailor.
 
"I have made friendships I know will last a lifetime and they are the type where we don't have to see each other everyday because they will be there next time we are posted to the same ship or location," she said.
 
"When I return to Australia I will be joining HMAS Anzac and I am looking forward to getting back to sea."