Medical Officer on Middle Eastern seas

Published on LCDR Fiona Eggins (author), LSIS Tom Gibson (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation MANITOU, HMAS Warramunga (F152)

Medical Officer Lieutenant Justin Kelly performs medical checks on a member of HMAS Warramunga during the ship's deployment to Operation MANITOU. (photo: LSIS Tom Gibson)
Medical Officer Lieutenant Justin Kelly performs medical checks on a member of HMAS Warramunga during the ship's deployment to Operation MANITOU.

Justin Kelly has left behind the beaches of Newcastle for the open ocean on a deployment to the Middle East with the Royal Australian Navy.

Lieutenant Kelly is the Medical Officer aboard HMAS Warramunga as the ship patrols Middle Eastern waters on counter-terrorism and maritime security operations.

He works on the ship as part of the three-person medical team and has a wide range of duties.

“This ranges from seeing patients presenting with minor illnesses onboard all the way up to acting as the medical incident controller in the event of a mass casualty incident,” Lieutenant Kelly said.

“I also provide advice to our Commanding Officer on health issues that have the potential to affect operational capability like preventative health measures when visiting foreign ports, particularly those with high rates of communicable diseases.”

After growing up on the Central Coast, Justin started university studying molecular biology.

“That study was very lab centric, and as a 19 year old I didn’t really like the idea of spending my days in a lab,” he said.

“I had a very strong sense of adventure, I wanted to get out and explore.”

Seeking a career that would take him outdoors and challenge him, Justin joined the Navy as a seaman officer in 2003.

After several years at sea, Justin left the Navy to study medicine, rejoined the service as a Medical Officer and is now posted to HMAS Warramunga.

“It’s liberating coming out to sea,” he said.

“It’s a sense of freedom; I get to go out and explore, see places most people wouldn’t normally get to see.”

Justin moved to the Newcastle area in 2015 to finish his medical training and now lives there with his wife Alison and kids Cooper, 6 and Charlotte, 4.

“The beaches in Newcastle are beautiful,” he said.

“I grew up surfing and have an attachment to the ocean. I love going down to watch my son at Nippers at Stockton Beach SLSC on a Sunday morning while my little girl plays in the sand.

“We also have plenty of great places to grab a coffee; Newcastle is developing a bit of a foodie culture which is nice.”

Justin is deployed to the Middle East as part of Operation MANITOU, the Australian Government's contribution to support international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East Region.

HMAS Warramunga is the 66th rotation of an Australian Navy vessel to the region since 1990.