Central coast sailor in counter-piracy operation

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

Royal Australian Navy sailor Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Joshua Robins, of HMAS Darwin, prepares for a patrol in the Middle East region from the Naval Support Activity base in Manama, Bahrain, during Operation Manitou. (photo: Corporal Mark Doran)
Royal Australian Navy sailor Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Joshua Robins, of HMAS Darwin, prepares for a patrol in the Middle East region from the Naval Support Activity base in Manama, Bahrain, during Operation Manitou.

A Royal Australian Navy sailor from Terrigal, north of Sydney, is living his passion while deployed on counter-terrorism patrols with HMAS Darwin.

Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Joshua Robins is serving as part of Operation MANITOU, which is the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East region.

Darwin’s
 primary goal is to contribute to the Combined Maritime Forces, a 31-nation partnership focused on defeating terrorism, preventing piracy, encouraging regional cooperation and promoting a safe maritime environment.

Leading Seaman Robins is the lead gun-maintainer of Darwin’s 76mm naval gun, which is one of the warship's most formidable weapons.

The gun is used in anti-aircraft and anti-surface roles and is capable of firing up to 80 rounds per minute to a range of eight nautical miles.

Leading Seaman Robins said he also maintained the ship’s auxiliary weapons and in his secondary role assisted watches on the main armament, the guided missile launching system.

“This is definitely not a P&O cruise, but I love my job," he said.

“It is fun, it’s interesting and it’s enjoyable, being a part of a well-oiled team that gets the job done.

“As an added bonus we do get to practice firing the gun, and that’s as real as it gets, we use the same procedures we would if we were at war.”

Leading Seaman Robins said both his grandfathers were sailors.

“My mother’s father was in the Royal Australian Navy and my father’s father was in the Royal Navy,” he said.

“The amazing stories they shared inspired me to join from when I was only 13-years-old.

“My parents encouraged me and I also wanted to get a trade in the field of electronics, so I enlisted in 2009, not long after my 18th birthday.”

Darwin is mainly tasked to support Combined Task Force 150 which undertakes maritime security patrols to combat terrorism, including the interception of vessels carrying illicit cargoes that help fund international terrorist activities.

Combined Task Force 150’s area of operations spans more than two million square miles, covering the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Gulf ofOman.

Leading Seaman Robins said at first it did not dawn on him how important the work Navy was doing in the Middle East until he deployed to the Middle East in 2014 on Darwin as part of Operation SLIPPER.

“We get lost in it all being about sailing at sea, but when a big drug bust is publicised that stops funds going to terrorist networks, I hear about the reactions at home and it makes us feel appreciated."

Leading Seaman Robins said the best part of the Navy was the camaraderie.

“The crew onboard Darwin is by far the best,” he said.

“It’s often the case of people hanging out with others in the same trade, but that’s not the case on this ship.

“We are one team and we all get along.”

Leading Seaman Robins said the hardest part of being a sailor was being away from his partner, Emily, and missing his family.

“When I go away for six months I tell Emily I will be away longer, because it is better to surprise her and come home early,” he said.

“My parents and some mates still live in Terrigal, and I am lucky I only live about an hour-and-a-half away in Neutral Bay, so I can visit them regularly when I am home.

“I am also trying to interest my younger brothers, Travis, Corey and Darcy, in the Navy, but unfortunately I think they are keen on the Air Force.”

Including this rotation, Darwin has deployed to the Middle East seven times between 1990 and 2016 as part of operations DAMASK, SLIPPER and MANITOU.