Toowoomba to be welcomed home

Published on LEUT Samantha Dudley (author), POIS Phil Cullinan (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation SLIPPER, HMAS Toowoomba (F156), Return to Australia

HMAS Toowoomba transits international waters. (photo: POIS Phil Cullinan)
HMAS Toowoomba transits international waters.

HMAS Toowoomba will receive a warm welcome home when she sails into Fleet Base West, HMAS Stirling tomorrow, Friday 14 June 2013 following her six month deployment to the Middle East Area of Operations.

The homecoming will be marked by a ceremony attended by Minister for Defence, the Honourable Stephen Smith MP, Shadow Minister for Defence and Senator for Western Australia, Senator the Honourable David Johnston, Senior Officer Commodore Peter Lockwood DSC, CSC, RAN, RTD, Commander Surface Force, Commodore Jonathan Mead AM RAN, and the family and friends of Toowoomba personnel.

Commanding Officer HMAS Stirling, Captain Angela Bond who will act as the Master of Ceremonies for the event said that it is an honour to be part of the welcome home of ceremony.

“The officers and sailors of HMAS Toowoomba have conducted their duty to the nation with diligence and honour. We can all be proud of their contribution to the Coalition Maritime Security Operations whilst assigned to Operation SLIPPER.”

“We expect to see approximately 500 family and friends on the wharf tomorrow, eagerly awaiting the return of their loved ones” said CAPT Bond.

Toowoomba has completed a particularly successful and eventful six-month deployment to the Middle East conducting counter-piracy, counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations.

Their mission was to help secure the maritime environment for legitimate trade. Their efforts have assisted in the deterrence of illegal maritime activity in the Middle East area, and they have also built on Australia’s strong relationships with other nations in the area.

On the 29th of March whilst working in the then Australian-led Task Force 150, Toowoomba was part of an operation with the Canadian warship Toronto working to disrupt the movement of illegal drugs from Afghanistan into East Africa by sea. The ships were adjacent to Zanzibar Island, Tanzania and in accordance with international law they conducted an operation against smugglers which resulted in the seizing of 500 kilograms of heroin. According to law enforcement agencies, this is one of the largest heroin seizures in maritime history and was worth around $100 million Australian dollars.

With heroin trafficking providing a major source of financial supply for terrorist activity, the destruction of this cargo struck at the financial heart of global terrorist organisations.

Toowoomba’s crew also built on Australia’s relationships with other nations from the Somali Basin and Arabian Sea, to the Gulfs of Aden and Oman, and the Straits of Hormuz. The Australian military has a long and distinguished history in this region.

Toowoomba participated in Exercise AMAN 2013, hosted by the Pakistan Navy to promote peace and stability in the region and enhance interoperability among partner naval forces.

Toowoomba also participated in both the Combined Maritime Forces-led Focused Operation SOUTHERN SWEEP and an International Mine Counter Measures Exercise.

The crew visited The Seychelles, and Toowoomba was our first ship to visit Mombasa, Kenya in more than 20 years.

The officers and sailors hosted visiting diplomats from The Seychelles, Russia, China, France, India, Cuba and the United Kingdom, building on Australia’s reputation in the region.

Over the duration of the deployment, Toowoomba successfully contributed to the full scope of Combined Maritime Forces operations including: maritime security, counter piracy and regional engagement, and her presence in the Middle East as part of the wider collective of partner forces has helped deter pirates from trying to ply their criminal trade, and as part of the Combined Maritime Forces she has strengthened international bonds.

Toowoomba has now completed her fourth rotation to the Middle East Area of Operations.

Imagery taken during HMAS Toowoomba's deployment is available on the Royal Australian Navy Media Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20130139