Albury sailor returns from drug-busting deployment

Published on CPL Dan Pinhorn (author and photographer)

Topic(s): Operation MANITOU, HMAS Ballarat (F155)

Able Seaman Marine Technician Ryan Lee in the engine room on board HMAS Ballarat. (photo: CPL Dan Pinhorn)
Able Seaman Marine Technician Ryan Lee in the engine room on board HMAS Ballarat.

While working as a supermarket manager in Albury, New South Wales, Able Seaman Marine Technician Ryan Lee wanted something more.

So he joined the Navy and has never looked back.

“I thought that joining defence and serving my nation was a good idea and the possibility of travelling was definitely a bonus,” Able Seaman Lee said.

“The initial reason I joined the Navy was to get a trade qualification.”

He was most recently deployed in HMAS Ballarat in the Middle East Region on Operation MANITOU.

As a Marine Technician, he specialises in maintaining a vessel’s propulsion system, which includes starting up, operating, maintaining and shutting down the main engines and generators.

“On board a ship we get ancillary roles too, mine is working as a ‘tanky’,” he said

“The role of a ‘tanky’ means I look after fuel, lubricant and oil quality control. I watch the supply of fuels on board, making sure we have enough and that the quality is within the specifications to ensure it isn’t going to damage the ship or aircraft engines.”

He says there was never a dull moment on board Ballarat.

“Between work and watch-keeping it gets busy at times, add in time for PT and sleep, the day gets pretty full,” Able Seaman Lee said.

“On this trip, I’ve been to countries I never thought I would visit, like Pakistan. I’ve also been to Asia and the Middle East, but the Seychelles is the best country by far – it’s a tropical paradise.”

Able Seaman Lee has looked into furthering his career in the Navy and transferring categories to become a clearance diver.

“If you are ever thinking of joining the Navy, just do it,” he said.

“It’s pretty awesome and the places you get to see, the people you get to meet, and the things you get to do, I one hundred per cent recommend it.” 

Operation MANITOU, is the Australian Government’s contribution to support international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East Region.

While deployed on Operation MANITOU, Ballarat seized more than a billion dollars’ worth of illegal narcotics, nearly half a million rounds of small-arms ammunition and 697 bags of chemical fertiliser, which had a potential use in the manufacture of improvised explosives.