Navy team hits terrorist funding

Published on CPL Max Bree (author), CAPT Fiona Bickerstaff (author), SGT Ray Vance (photographer)

Combined Task Force – 150 members at the Change of Command ceremony on the flight deck of French Ship Var (A806) at Mina Salman port in the Kingdom of Bahrain. (photo: SGT Ray Vance)
Combined Task Force – 150 members at the Change of Command ceremony on the flight deck of French Ship Var (A806) at Mina Salman port in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

The funding of terrorism has taken a hit thanks to the efforts of Navy personnel who completed a five-month rotation with Combined Task Force 150 in Bahrain on 6 April.

Working under Canadian command, seven Navy personnel were involved with tasking Allied naval vessels to intercept drugs flowing from the Makran coast to places such as Yemen or Tanzania. 

Lieutenant Commander Kellie Bolt served on the recent rotation and said stopping the flow of drugs to fund terrorists wasn’t the limit of the mission.

“The mission was effectively a mandate on counterterrorism in any sphere,” she said. 

“It’s about using any assets we get allocated to stop any terrorist organisation using the sea.

“That could be anything from narcotic trafficking to communications; it’s all related to anti-terrorism operations.” 

The mission covers about 2.4 million sqkm including the Red Sea along with the gulfs of Aden and Oman.

Ships, aircraft and personnel from more than 30 nations including France, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Lieutenant Commander Bolt, who worked in planning, said the overall mission involved more than just warships and aircraft.

“Other lines of operation are based on regional engagement,” she said. 

“That meant liaising closely with different agencies like the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and local police.

“We also tried to build local capacity by getting involved with mentoring. 

“Ultimately we want to leave regional stability for local nations to look after.”

Captain Nicholas Stoker served as deputy commander of Combined Task Force 150 and was the senior Australian Defence Force officer on the mission.

“I’m really proud of our team having tactical control of four to six ships and aircraft on any one day,” he said. 

“That translates to upwards of 1000 personnel at sea in ships’ companies disrupting terrorism and movement of illicit cargo.” 

The seven Australian mariners worked well with 23 Canadians who made up the rest of the team, according to Captain Stoker.

“We’re two very like-minded nations, with a fine reputation for proficiency in maritime security operations,” he said. 

“When you bring the two together it’s a force-multiplier for security, stability and peace in the Middle East region.”

 

Royal Australian Navy Chief Petty Officer, Steven Schonrock on the flight deck of French Ship Var (A806) at Mina Salman port in the Kingdom of Bahrain, during Combined Task Force – 150 Change of Command ceremony.

Royal Australian Navy Chief Petty Officer, Steven Schonrock on the flight deck of French Ship Var (A806) at Mina Salman port in the Kingdom of Bahrain, during Combined Task Force – 150 Change of Command ceremony.

Helping clear-up the battle-space picture for maritime operations in the Middle East region helped earn Petty Officer Steven Schonrock a silver commendation at the end of his deployment as part of the Combined Task Force 150.

Petty Officer Schonrock was involved with tasking ships and aircraft in the area while performing his job as a battle-watch assistant with the Combined Maritime Forces Headquarters in Bahrain.

Petty Officer Schonrock’s experience teaching combat systems operators was put into practice immediately upon arrival.

“I was tasked with getting the command operations picture up to speed and making it show what we wanted to see,” he said.

“That involved making phone calls, taking screen shots and showing them what we wanted it to be like. That took about a month and a half to get it up to speed.”

Petty Officer Schonrock said he was surprised to receive the commendation because he was only doing what was expected of him.

“I didn’t think I was excelling,” he said. 

“I thought I was just doing the job, ticking the right boxes. Though I had a very motivated battle-watch captain who helped me to do good things.”

Though he’d completed three Middle East deployments at sea, this was an excellent opportunity to find out how things worked ashore.

“When you’re sitting in a ship it feels like things take so long to get approval,” he said.

“But after working there you learn that requests have to go through legal advisers and the Commodore first to do simple things like boardings.”