Oceanographer earns CSC for maritime drug interdiction ops

Published on LEUT Sarah West (author), ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez (photographer)

Topic(s): Australia Day Honours, Conspicuous Service Cross

Commanding Officer of HMAS Newcastle, Commander Mark Sirois, RAN drives the ship to berth at the Royal Jordanian Naval Base in Aqaba, Jordan. (photo: ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez)
Commanding Officer of HMAS Newcastle, Commander Mark Sirois, RAN drives the ship to berth at the Royal Jordanian Naval Base in Aqaba, Jordan.

Royal Australian Navy Captain Mark Sirois has been fascinated by the world’s ocean for as long as he can remember.

This interest in the oceans first led him to major in Oceanography at university. After that, he joined the Royal Australian Navy as a Maritime Warfare Officer, starting a career that has spanned 30 years.

Given this life-long affinity for the sea, it’s quite fitting that Captain Sirois has been recognised in Saturday's Australia Day Honours and Awards list with the award of the Conspicuous Service Cross, for his service in Command of HMAS Newcastle in the Middle East region on Operation MANITOU.

His citation reads:

For outstanding achievement in the application of exceptional skills, judgement and dedication as the Commanding Officer of HMAS Newcastle while deployed on Operation MANITOU from July 2017 to November 2017.

Captain Sirois' drive and dedication directly and positively shaped operations in globally significant maritime domains within the Operation MANITOU area of operations. His determined leadership of HMAS Newcastle actively deterred narcotics smuggling as a major source of terrorism funding, and positively shaped Australian and Combined Maritime Forces operations in the Middle East region. In doing so he has significantly enhanced the Australian Defence Force's reputation with partner nations.

Captain Sirois said the award was a reflection on all the men and women he served with in HMAS Newcastle.

“It is a real honour to have been selected to receive this award,” Captain Sirois said.

“It’s a direct reflection on the amazing professional calibre of the men and women that served in Newcastle and the enduring support from their families and friends that this award has become a reality.” 

“I am truly proud of everyone in ‘family Newcastle’ and am extremely thankful for having the privilege to have commanded such a great group of sailors and officers, and to have served with them,” he said.

During Newcastle’s 2017 deployment to the Middle East region, the Ship’s Company conducted a range of tasks including counter-narcotics operations in support of Combined Task Force 150 and protecting merchant traffic from piracy in support of Combined Task Force 151.

“We also acted in direct support to the United States Fifth Fleet, attached to the USS Nimitz Carrier Battle Group,” Captain Sirois said. 

“This involved providing an anti-air-defence capability to the carrier and also safely escorting vital logistics ships through the Straits of Hormuz.”

“The Ship’s Company of HMAS Newcastle made both Navy and Australia proud,” he said.

During his command, Newcastle also became the first Royal Australian Warship to visit Madagascar since the Second World War, which Captain Sirois counts as a career highlight.

“But the privilege of Commanding such amazing ordinary Australians doing incredible work as a team around the world and in Australia, with the support of their families, has been the biggest highlight,” he said. 

The Royal Australian Navy congratulates Captain Mark Sirois on being awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross, along with all of the twenty-three Navy people recognised in the 2019 Australian Day Honours and Awards List.