Training mission reinforces friendships and strategic commitment to Solomon Islands

Published on LEUT Dave Devlin (author), LSIS Justin Brown (photographer)

Location(s): Honiara, Solomon Islands

Topic(s): Training, HMAS Choules (L100), Community Engagement

Royal Australian Navy Commander Phillipa Hay, Commander Task Group 637, and Commander Scott Houlihan, Commanding Officer HMAS Choules with Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Recruits in Honiara, Solomon Islands. (photo: POIS Justin Brown)
Royal Australian Navy Commander Phillipa Hay, Commander Task Group 637, and Commander Scott Houlihan, Commanding Officer HMAS Choules with Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Recruits in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

Australian Defence Force personnel assigned to Joint Task Group 637 have completed their visit to the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara.

The Joint Task Group consisting of Maritime, Land and Public Affairs training teams, along with multiple supporting elements from the Ship’s Company of HMAS Choules, recently conducted bilateral training and community engagement tasks over a week-long period.

Royal Australian Navy Commander Phillipa Hay, Commander Task Group 637, and Commander Scott Houlihan, Commanding Officer HMAS Choules, conduct local media interviews in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

Royal Australian Navy Commander Phillipa Hay, Commander Task Group 637, and Commander Scott Houlihan, Commanding Officer HMAS Choules, conduct local media interviews in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

Commander of the Joint Task Group, Commander Phillipa Hay said the activities undertaken by the Australian Defence Force have reinforced the strong ties we have with the people of the Solomon Islands.

“I have been very impressed with the level of professionalism and willingness to train displayed by the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force,” Commander Hay said.

“The training programme has been specifically tailored to prepare the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force for their National General Elections in April.”

“It will ultimately lead to the increased capacity of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and enable them, to better contribute to national and regional security,” she said.

Apart from the training activities, the Task Group engaged in many local community events including; competing in sporting events, attending and participating with multiple church services and, providing entertainment with a series of Army Band performances.

“The people of Honiara have expressed their gratitude for our renewed and enhanced presence in the South-West Pacific,” Commander Hay said.

“We have received a warm reception and generous hospitality throughout the entire week.”

“Our engagement with key leaders and the community has strengthened our relationship with the people of Honiara and made us all feel very welcome in the South-West Pacific.”

The week-long activities finished with an official reception and ceremonial sunset aboard HMAS Choules, with some special guests in attendance including the Caretaker Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, The Honourable Rick Houenipwela, along with other senior government ministers, Australian Federal Police advisors, and senior church leaders.

In his address to those present, Prime Minister Houenipwela paid special thanks to Australia’s commitment towards his country’s development journey.

“The visit by HMAS Choules and her mentors is a further symbol of the strengthening partnership and relationship between Solomon Islands and Australia,” Prime Minister Houenipwela said.

“The huge capabilities of your naval vessels visiting our shores provide reassurance to my country that we are indeed among friends.”

“With these examples of strategic and operational partnerships, it is very pleasing for me to reaffirm the sincerity of my governments’ commitment to work with Australia and together, we can also contribute to shaping our regions agenda,” the Prime Minister said.

During the official reception, the Prime Minister took the opportunity to tour HMAS Choules and speak with members of the Ship’s Company.

Australia and Solomon Islands share an enduring relationship that has been built on historical and deep community links.

The training and engagement conducted by the ADF supports capability development and builds interoperability and resilience to respond to common security challenges throughout the region.

Joint Task Group 637 will next visit Vanuatu to deliver a similar series of training and community events.

The Australian Defence Force deployment to the South-West Pacific region is focussed on facilitating an enhanced program of training activities and exercises and, will deepen our people to people links with our Pacific neighbours.