Allies and blood ties

Published on LEUT Jessica Craig (author), ABIS Ryan McKenzie (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Adelaide (L01), Exercise TALISMAN SABRE

L-R: Chief Petty Officer Aviation Support Stephen Firkin, Lieutenant Commander Shane Firkin, Leading Seaman Naval Police Coxswain Elizabeth Monk and Able Seaman Communication Information Systems Rebecca Monk onboard HMAS Adelaide during Exercise TALISMAN SABRE 2019 off the coast of Bowen, Queensland. (photo: ABIS Ryan McKenzie)
L-R: Chief Petty Officer Aviation Support Stephen Firkin, Lieutenant Commander Shane Firkin, Leading Seaman Naval Police Coxswain Elizabeth Monk and Able Seaman Communication Information Systems Rebecca Monk onboard HMAS Adelaide during Exercise TALISMAN SABRE 2019 off the coast of Bowen, Queensland.

The ship’s company of HMAS Adelaide saw double when two sets of siblings posted into the ship recently for Exercise TALISMAN SABRE 2019.

Proving the exercise united not only allies but also blood ties, the Firkin brothers and Monk sisters were given the opportunity to serve together for the first time at sea - a great feat considering the Firkins have 74 years’ combined service and have not had the opportunity before.

Chief Petty Officer Stephen Firkin said their father thought it was great that he was able to serve at sea with his brother, Lieutenant Commander Shane Firkin.

“Dad thought it was great we could finally serve together at sea.

“When I spoke to him, he asked ‘how’s your brother going, do you see him?’ And I said ‘not in the gym’!” Chief Firkin joked.

Similarly, Leading Seaman Elizabeth Monk and her sister Able Seaman Rebecca Monk said their father was equally elated about their opportunity to serve at sea together, especially given the sisters are the only two to serve in the Australian Defence Force out of twelve children.

“It’s an over-600 year tradition on Dad’s side that someone from every generation has served in the forces, including both Mum and Dad, so he loved that we could serve together and was so proud,” Able Seaman Monk said.

While the pace of TALISMAN SABRE 19 didn’t allow for much interaction, the siblings found their own ways to keep connected on the ship.

“We both work in aviation, so we usually only saw each other during the work day, or when Steve wanted a coffee,” Lieutenant Commander Firkin said.

“But it was actually good having him on board as we got to talk about things, like family stuff.

“We had an Uncle die while we were away, so that was a bit sad.

“We both got to know about that together at the same time and have that support,” he said.

Although only seeing each other during self-described ‘punishing’ PT sessions, as a trade-off, the Monk sisters said they had both enjoyed interacting with foreign military personnel on board.

“I was on watch with a couple of US Marines and one New Zealand Navy member, which was really cool,” Able Seaman Monk said.

“I introduced them to mint slices and they loved them, although they looked at me funny when I called them biscuits – in their slang that means something else!” 

Coincidently, both sets of siblings may find themselves on board HMAS Adelaide again in October as the capability of the amphibious force grows and more personnel are used in task group situations.

“Rebecca’s moved over to Perth now, so it will be good to have her on a board in October for a longer trip - we might actually see each other a bit more,” Leading Seaman Monk said.

“After the October trip we’re hoping there’s a family day so we can have four Firkins on board - including Dad and my son who is an air crewman,” Lieutenant Commander Firkin said.