Jindabyne's Gun-Buster

Published on LEUT Sarah West (author), POIS Ollie Garside (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation SLIPPER

Able Seaman Jerrad Coomber on 02 deck during the 76mm gun prefire inspection onboard HMAS Newcastle. (photo: POIS Ollie Garside)
Able Seaman Jerrad Coomber on 02 deck during the 76mm gun prefire inspection onboard HMAS Newcastle.

Jerrad Coomber couldn’t be further from the snow that covers his hometown of Jindabyne in winter. In fact, the 27 year old Able Seaman is braving soaring temperatures and oppressive humidity in the Middle East where he is deployed on the Royal Australian Navy Ship HMAS Newcastle.

Newcastle is in the Middle East conducting counter terrorism, counter piracy and counter smuggling patrols as part of Operation SLIPPER.

Jerrad is an Electronics Technician whose role involves maintaining and operating Newcastle’s high tech weapons systems.

“They call me a Gun-Buster, because I work with all ship’s big weapons! That includes guns, missiles and torpedoes. Specifically, I work on the hydraulics and electronics of the weapon systems,” Jerrad said.

The former Snowy Mountains Grammar student is experiencing his second operational deployment to the Middle East, having also deployed to the area in HMAS Melbourne in 2011.

“Several moments have stood out as memorable, including going for a swim in the Red Sea and visiting lots of new places,” Jerrad said.

“I have also recently taken up Cross Fit, and I will never forget what it’s like to train in this heat and humidity!” he said.

Needless to say, Jerrad spends the quiet hours at sea dreaming of Jindabyne’s cooler climes.

“My fondest memories of home are of the snow. I love skiing and waking up to snow on the hills,” he said.

Newcastle is due to return to Australia in October after handing over Operation SLIPPER duties to HMAS Melbourne.

“I’m most looking forward to seeing my beautiful ratbag of a dog, Hugo,” said Jerrad.

“It will also be great to be able to cook for myself, have some time to myself, see my family and friends and go for a mountain bike ride,” he added.

Operation SLIPPER is the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to the international campaign against terrorism, counter smuggling and counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and enhancing regional maritime security and engagement.

Newcastle’s current deployment is the 55th rotation of an Australian warship to the Middle East since 1990.