Administering emergency responses in Melbourne

Published on CPL Mark Doran (author and photographer)

Topic(s): Operation MANITOU, HMAS Melbourne (F05), Damage Control Exercise

Able Seaman Marine Logistics- Personnel Rhiannon McWilliam communicates with the damage control centre during an emergency exercise on HMAS Melbourne. which is patrolling in the Middle East region as part of Operation Manitou. (photo: Corporal Mark Doran)
Able Seaman Marine Logistics- Personnel Rhiannon McWilliam communicates with the damage control centre during an emergency exercise on HMAS Melbourne. which is patrolling in the Middle East region as part of Operation Manitou.

Life as a sailor may not be as glamorous as it is sometimes depicted in the movies, but on the other hand it sure isn’t mundane.

Take the career of Able Seaman Maritime Logistics - Personnel Operations Rhiannon McWilliam, who works as a Technical Officers' administration clerk for the Engineering department in the frigate, HMAS Melbourne.

Melbourne is currently patrolling the Middle East region as part of Operation MANITOU, Australia's contribution to the Combined Maritime Forces.

In her normal role Able Seaman McWilliam works with the Weapons and Marine Engineering sections and assists with their day-to-day administration.

Things get more interesting when she switches to her ancillary role as a member of the Standing Sea Fire and Emergency Party as a scene communicator.

In that role, her job is to be at the scene of damage control exercises or real incidents to relay information to and from the damage control centre.

Able Seaman McWilliam said she joined Navy in 2013 because she wanted to continue an administrative career, but also wanted some variety and travel in her life.

“My step-father was in the New Zealand Navy for 20 years and gave me heaps of encouragement to enlist,” she said.

“I was working as a receptionist, but it was boring. I’m not bored now.”

The Combined Maritime Forces undertake patrols to intercept the trafficking of drugs that help fund international terrorism.

Melbourne is conducting maritime security operations under the authority of Combined Task Force 150 in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf.

Able Seaman McWilliam said the emergency party were the first responders to an incident on a ship.

“We need to be on the ball and understand how to react to a range of damage control scenarios,” she said.

“It could be a fire, flooding, toxic hazard or a casualty we need to deal with, so we practice every day.

“If the real thing happens we will be there and we will be prepared.”

Able Seaman McWilliam said the Navy had given her some fantastic opportunities to see places around the world.

“I have met some amazing people and have made many new friends, especially on this ship,” she said.

“It makes me feel proud to be with Melbourne as a part of Operation MANITOU on my first deployment.

“We are making an impact on the world’s illegal drug trade with our contribution to the Combined Maritime Forces.

“The most significant challenge for me is being away from my family and my partner, Robbie.

“But I know they will be waiting for me when I get home to Sydney and that is what keeps me going.”