HMAS Toowoomba (II) is making her way home to Australia after handing over maritime security and interception operations for Operation SLIPPER in the Middle East Area of Operations to HMAS Newcastle.
The ship’s company of 191 completed a six-month deployment conducting counter piracy, counter narcotics and counter terrorism operations on 28 May 2013.
They will arrive at Fleet Base West at HMAS Stirling in Western Australia to reunite with family and friends in just over a fortnight.
The Commanding Officer, Commander Brendon Zilko, said the ship’s company could be proud of the role they have played in the Middle East after patrolling waters from the Somali Basin and Arabian Sea to the Gulfs of Aden and Oman, and the Straits of Hormuz and Bab-Al-Mandeb.
“This has been a highlight of my career and it’s very satisfying to bring this highly professional, dedicated and capable ship’s company home to Australia to be reunited with their families and friends,” Commander Zilko said.
“Our mission in the Middle East was to secure the maritime environment for legitimate trade and my ship’s company has done this with aplomb."
“They can hold their heads high for a job well done to both deter illegal activity in the maritime domain and also build relationships with other nations.”
Under the Australian-led Combined Task Force 150, HMAS Toowoomba (II) was part of the focused operation that resulted in a record heroin haul. Half a tonne of heroin worth AUD$100 million was seized from a drug trafficking vessel on 29 March 2013.
“I also need to recognise the efforts of the families who have not seen their loved ones since we steamed out of Rockingham on 28 December 2012 – I cannot thank you enough for the support you have provided these very professional people while they have been deployed,” Commander Zilko said.
HMAS Toowoomba (II) was tasked with regional engagement and capacity building through participation in both the Combined Maritime Forces-led Focused Operation SOUTHERN SWEEP and an International Mine Counter Measures Exercise.
Toowoomba (II) also hosted diplomats from the Seychelles, Russia, China, France, India, Cuba and the United Kingdom.
“We have had some unforgettable opportunities, such as the first port visit to Mombasa, Kenya, in more than 20 years and also being the first Australian ship in some time to operate close to the Somalian coast for maritime security patrols,” Commander Zilko said.
The Commander of Joint Task Force 633, Major General Mick Crane, along with Commander Zilko, the Commander of Combined Maritime Forces, Vice Admiral John Miller, and the Deputy Commander of Combined Maritime Forces, Commodore Simon Ancona, visited the ship in Bahrain to acknowledge Toowoomba’s efforts prior to departing the MEAO.
Major General Crane said HMAS Toowoomba (II) could be proud of the role she had played in the fight against terrorism and piracy.
“HMAS Toowoomba (II) has done a superb job contributing to the full scope of Combined Maritime Forces operations including maritime security, counter piracy and regional engagement,” he said.
“Her presence in the region 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.
“The ship’s company can return home now for a well-earned rest and to be reunited with their families.”
HMAS Newcastle takes over operations with the Combined Maritime Forces and will hand over to HMAS Melbourne (III) later this year.
HMAS Newcastle is the 55th rotation of a Navy warship to the Middle East since the first Gulf War in 1990 and is the 31st ship to deploy to the Middle East since as part of Operations SLIPPER and CATALYST since September 2001.
Images are available at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20130182