Nearly six months after her departure in April for the Middle East, HMAS Newcastle was welcomed home today by hundreds of family and friends at a ceremony at Garden Island, Sydney.
Joining the ship’s company’s loved ones in welcoming home the 230 men and women of Newcastle was the Prime Minister of Australia the Hon. Tony Abbott MP; Commander of the Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Tim Barrett, AM CSC RAN; the Commander Australian Surface Forces, Commodore Jonathan Mead, AM RAN; and the ship’s Commissioning Lady Mrs Margaret McNaughton AM.
Commanding Officer of HMAS Newcastle, Commander Paul O’Grady, CSM RAN had a memorable welcome as he was met at the bottom of the gangway by the Prime Minster who congratulated him on the ship’s success.
“I am immensely proud of the accomplishments of the men and women of Newcastle. Their tenacious effort and teamwork was pivotal in achieving our mission to promote maritime security and suppress acts of piracy and terrorism,” Commander O’Grady said.
As soon as the brow opened, the ship’s company surged to the wharf to be reunited with their loved ones.
“It was a fantastic trip and a wonderful opportunity, but nothing beats the feeling of coming home. Seeing all the people waving from the wharf as we came alongside was pretty moving,” Leading Seaman Combat System Operator Tim Parkinson said while hugging his wife and son.
Caught in the embrace of her husband, Petty Officer Maritime Logistics - Personnel Brenda Cox said she was excited to be home.
“It has been a very busy six months for me, the time has flown. I loved some of the ports we got to visit but I definitely missed my hubby and my puppy. I am extremely happy to see my hubby again and I am looking forward to taking a well deserved break,” said Petty Officer Cox.
While the ship was proud to have made their contribution, Commander O’Grady said it wasn’t without personal sacrifice.
“Three members of the ship’s company became fathers while deployed. Lieutenant Commander Chris Fingleton and his wife Gemma welcomed their little boy Alexander Leo; Leading Seaman Mathew Little and his wife Sharon celebrated the birth of their daughter Elodie Anne; and Able Seaman Huth and his partner Katharine welcome little Arya Marie to the world,” he said.
“Many of the crew celebrated birthdays, including milestone 21st, 30th and 50ths. However, many also missed wedding anniversaries, family birthdays and, sadly, the passing of some loved ones back home. It is always hard to be away from our families, but we are proud to have done our duty,” said Commander O’Grady.
The return marks the completion of Newcastle's fourth deployment to the Middle East Area of Operations and the RAN’s 55th rotation of a major fleet unit since 1990. Newcastle was relieved on station in the Middle East Area of Operations by HMAS Melbourne.