Breaking with family tradition pays off at sea

This article has photo gallery Published on CPL Mark Doran (author and photographer)

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

Royal Australian Navy sailor Leading Seaman Electronic Technician Ci-Anna Smith stands before HMAS Melbourne's 76mm Naval Gun. The ship is patrolling in the Middle East region for Operation Manitou. (photo: Corporal Mark Doran)
Royal Australian Navy sailor Leading Seaman Electronic Technician Ci-Anna Smith stands before HMAS Melbourne's 76mm Naval Gun. The ship is patrolling in the Middle East region for Operation Manitou.

A Hobart local up-gunned her working life when she decided to trade retail work for seaborne artillery.

Leading Seaman Electronic Technician Ci-Anna Smith is deployed with Adelaide class frigate, HMAS Melbourne, which is patrolling the waters of the Middle East as part of Operation MANITOU, Australia’s contribution to the Combined Maritime Forces in the region.

The ship is operating in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf with Combined Task Force 150, whose mission is to intercept shipments of illegal drugs used to help fund terrorism.

Leading Seaman Smith left her job in retail to join the Navy in 2008 and is now a gun maintainer in the Australian warship.

One of her favourite pieces of equipment to work on is the 76mm gun, which is one of Melbourne's biggest weapons, capable of firing up to 80 rounds per minute to a range of eight nautical miles.

The gun is used in anti-aircraft and anti-surface roles.

Leading Seaman Smith said Defence Force Recruiting persuaded her to be a sailor and she was very happy with the career choice, even if it meant breaking a family tradition.

"My grandfather was in the Army as a baker during the Second World War and my brother is currently serving as a trooper in an Army cavalry unit," she said.

"I decided to be a gun maintainer because the weapons have hydraulics, mechanics and electronics all rolled into one.

"I needed to learn a lot about the different systems.

"I get to see the start of the operation to the end result, from when the round is placed in the rack and goes through the complete system before it is fired.

"If one part is out of alignment, even by a small amount, it can stop the gun working.

"My job is to make sure it works perfectly."

Leading Seaman Smith spent close to eight months in trade training, followed by a year working on her competency log book to prepare for her chosen career.

She first served on the amphibious operations support ship HMAS Tobruk and was deployed on Operation SAMOA ASSIST after the tsunami in 2009.

Leading Seaman Smith later served in the frigate HMAS Sydney during a tour of South East Asia.

This was followed by a posting to sister-ship HMAS Newcastle, and then transferred to her third Adelaide class frigate, Melbourne, in 2014.

Leading Seaman Smith said it was a rewarding experience to be on operations.

Royal Australian Navy sailor Leading Seaman Electronic Technician Ci-Anna Smith checks the ammunition for the 76mm Naval Gun while deployed aboard HMAS Melbourne, which is patrolling in the Middle East region as part of Operation Manitou.

Royal Australian Navy sailor Leading Seaman Electronic Technician Ci-Anna Smith checks the ammunition for the 76mm Naval Gun while deployed aboard HMAS Melbourne, which is patrolling in the Middle East region as part of Operation Manitou.



"I have a major stance against drugs in our society," she said.

"I am very glad we are helping to stop the illegal drug trade and stopping the heroin from going into the arms of kids in Australia and elsewhere in the world.

"It also means the money is not helping to fund international terrorism or buy weapons."

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

She again intercepted a significant haul in early December.

Leading Seaman Smith said Melbourne's crew are a close-knit team.

"We stick together and whenever any of the guys or girls needs someone as a buddy for a port visit we just grab them and take them with us," she said.

"I enjoy my job, but my partner, Able Seaman Pia Bartle, is serving in Newcastle, which Melbourne relieved this operation, so we have spent a lot of time apart.

"The highlight of my deployment was when Pia was flown by Sea Hawk from Newcastle with the command team for us to catch-up when the ships were passing in the Arabian Gulf."

HMAS Melbourne will be relieved on patrol by HMAS Darwin, that ship left Sydney on 30 December for the Middle East.