Specialist communications skills are essential on a Royal Australian Navy guided missile frigate, and keeping HMAS Darwin connected to her task group is Able Seaman Communication and Information Systems Melissa Van Der Ley.
Darwin is in South East Asia as she sails as part of a Joint Task Group Indo-Pacific Endeavour.
“My main role on Darwin is to provide internal and external communications support, whether it be via voice, data, flags or Morse Code using the ship’s communications light, or providing a means for personnel to contact home,” she said.
Her family has a strong connection with the Navy, with her sister previously serving as a boatswains mate and her brother working as a marine technician.
After joining the Navy in March 2015, Able Seaman Van Der Ley spent a lot of time in Victoria at HMAS Cerberus where she learned the core skills of her trade.
“I was then posted to HMAS Harman in the ACT for approximately nine months before I was posted to Darwin, so this is my first ship,” she said.
A keen sportswoman, she has continued playing team sports to keep fit to fight since she joined the Navy.
“I represented Navy in both cricket and netball in 2016,” she said.
“A highlight from that period was winning the Australian Defence Force national inter-service cricket championships with the Navy Women’s team.”
Even though she has only been onboard for a short period, Able Seaman Van Der Ley has some fond memories of her time onboard.
“I was promoted by the Commanding Officer from Seaman to Able Seaman, which was a special occasion for me,” she said.
Able Seaman Van Der Ley is currently deployed in one of the largest Navy task group deployments since the Second World War.
“We are providing escort to HMAS Adelaide as she visits various Asian countries and shows her substantial humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capability to our neighbours,” she said.
”It gives me a good chance to practice all my core communication skills with a number of major Navy fleet units, and to experience the lifestyles and culture of our northern neighbours.”