HMAS Toowoomba brings local home

Published on LEUT Rilana Ostheim (author), LSIS Kylie Jagiello (photographer)

Location(s): Fleet Base West, WA

Topic(s): HMAS Toowoomba (F156)

Royal Australian Navy sailor, Petty Officer Maritime Logistics - Personnel Operations Lauren Birch, with daughter Rebecca, after HMAS Toowoomba arrives back to Fleet Base West, WA, after deployment. (photo: LSIS Kylie Jagiello)
Royal Australian Navy sailor, Petty Officer Maritime Logistics - Personnel Operations Lauren Birch, with daughter Rebecca, after HMAS Toowoomba arrives back to Fleet Base West, WA, after deployment.

A Royal Australian Navy Petty Officer has just returned from a seven-month deployment onboard the Anzac class frigate named after her city of birth.

HMAS Toowoomba recently returned to her homeport of Fleet Base West, Rockingham, Western Australia, after the ship’s longest deployment to date, successfully contributing to seven Task Groups.

Onboard for the seven month assignment was Toowoomba-born Petty Officer Lauren Birch.

Excited to be back and seeing her family, she reflected on the past seven months at sea.

“I joined the Navy to see the world, and I definitely got to see quite a bit on this trip”, Petty Officer Birch said.

“Exercise RIMPAC and our visit to Hawaii provided some of my favourite experiences in my 13-year Navy career so far”. 

In her current role, Petty Officer Birch has a variety of tasks to fulfil on a daily basis. 

“As the Personnel Officer onboard Toowoomba, I manage the ship’s office as well as pay and accounts”, she said.

“Additionally, I am the Commanding Officer’s secretary. 

“While lots of my tasks are of administrative nature, I am also involved in damage control and the medical training of the ship’s company.”

With such a diverse role, Petty Officer Birch values learning new skills and meeting interesting people.

“I love getting out and about, doing different jobs and getting presented with a variety of interesting opportunities in my career”, she said. 

For the next few weeks her days will be getting a little quieter and her focus will be shifting.

“I am looking forward to spending some time with my husband and three year old daughter and having some time to race our sail boat”, Petty Officer Birch said. 

While on her seven month deployment, Toowoomba participated in a series of exercises, international engagements and training activities, including Exercise OCEAN EXPLORER, the Principal Warfare Officer Assessment Week, a South East Asian deployment, Exercise BERSAMA SHIELD, Indo-Pacific Endeavour and Exercise ‘Rim of the Pacific’ (RIMPAC) in Hawaii, where the ship successfully conducted multiple weapon and missile firings.

The ship’s company will now enjoy some well-earned leave before returning to Toowoomba, alongside Fleet Base West for a routine maintenance period.