Training and entertaining in the South West Pacific

This article has photo gallery This article has a video attachmentPublished on CAPT Tom Maclean (author), LSIS Craig Walton (photographer)

Location(s): Funafuti, Tuvalu, Nukuʻalofa, Tonga

Topic(s): HMAS Gascoyne (M85), Indo-Pacific Endeavour, Community Engagement

HMAS Gascoyne sails through Te Namo Lagoon into Funafuti, Tuvalu. (photo: LSIS Craig Walton)
HMAS Gascoyne sails through Te Namo Lagoon into Funafuti, Tuvalu.

The ship’s company of HMAS Gascoyne conducted practical training, hosted royalty and gave a coat paint where needed on a deployment to Tonga and Tuvalu.

Gascoyne deployed to the South West Pacific as part of the Australian Government’s increased efforts to foster security, sovereignty, peace and prosperity in the region.

On 23 April, the Huon Class Minehunter arrived in Tonga and spent four days there before sailing to Tuvalu, where it stayed until 4 May.

 

In both countries the crew worked with the Australian Army under Joint Task Group 637.1.

The task group engaged with military, security and cultural leaders as well as local communities.

Gascoyne’s clearance divers provided demonstrations of their skills and specialist equipment.

Executive Officer, Lieutenant Jason Dawson said his team showed Tongan soldiers and sailors how to search the hull of a ship and also rescue an unconscious diver.

“It was great to share skills with the members of His Majesty’s Armed Forces.

“They were really enthusiastic about learning more as they’re interested in establishing a diving capability in their own military,” Lieutenant Dawson said.

The ship also hosted multiple functions and ceremonies, including an Anzac Day Dawn Service in front of Tonga’s King and Queen.

The task group worked with local staff from the Tongan Red Cross to prepare and paint a shipping container, which will be filled with disaster relief supplies and serve as a meeting point for Tongans in the event of a natural disaster.

In Tuvalu, some of Gascoyne’s sailors repainted a room in the island nation’s main hospital.

Leading Seaman Michael Rondel said it was great to get involved in a practical way.

“It’s good to see how two different cultures can mix together. I would really like to come back,” Leading Seaman Rondel said.

The task group’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Will Harvey, said the short deployment achieved a great amount.

“It identified future cooperation opportunities and contributed to the Defence’s enhanced regional engagement initiative that demonstrates Australia’s commitment to our Pacific partners,” Lieutenant Colonel Harvey said.

Additional imagery available on the Defence Image Gallery:
http://images.defence.gov.au/S20191080
http://images.defence.gov.au/S20191043
http://images.defence.gov.au/S20190965.