Within one year of joining the Royal Australian Navy, six officers have taken part in a critical humanitarian aid and disaster relief mission in Vanuatu.
One of the Navy’s largest ships, HMAS Choules was deployed to Ambae Island in October to help evacuate 11,000 residents living near a volcano threatening to erupt.
The trainee Maritime Warfare Officers with less than 10 months experience, took part in the mission as part of the ship’s bridge team.
Choules was originally tasked to join the militaries of New Zealand and France in Exercise SOUTHERN KATIPO; New Zealand’s largest biennial joint amphibious exercise.
She was re-tasked to provide support to the people of Vanuatu with food, water, tents, solar lights, hygiene, kitchen and shelter kits.
The ship proved her adaptability by supplying the islands of Maewo, North Pentecost and South Pentecost where many locals of Ambae Island were displaced.
Midshipman James Moss said he was impressed by the professionalism of the crew.
“The operation has made our first sea posting a highly memorable experience, unforgettable and second to none,” he said.
Having just completed Phase I of their Junior Warfare Application Course, the Midshipmen are now consolidating their skills within the bridge and learning about the other departments of the ship, including engineering, logistics, communications, seamanship and working with the ship’s Army specialists.
Choules’ youngest crew member, 18-year-old Midshipman Joseph Benzie said he was proud of the ship’s commitment to the operation.
“It’s great to see hard work and dedication by so many sailors to come to the aid of those who have been affected by the volcano and displaced from their homes,” he said.
Four of the six are set to join the Australian Defence Force Academy next year. Seeing how Navy, Army and Air Force work together in Choules has provided an invaluable experience and leave them with the knowledge of how joint forces co-operate.