The remote communities of the Tiwi Islands off the Darwin coastline were this week visited by two Royal Australian Navy (RAN) SB-70-B Seahawk helicopters, assisting HMAS Coonawarra’s local community engagement program and raising Navy’s profile in remote and indigenous communities.
The visit by the helicopters from 816 Squadron to the Islands was organised to coincide with Exercise KAKADU 2014.
Over 150 kids from the Murrupuriyanuwu Catholic Primary School waited excitedly around the local cricket oval as the helicopters took turns circling and landing on the oval.
The lead helicopter, piloted by Lieutenant Matt Dank and Lieutenant Ben Martin, remained on the ground for almost two hours, giving the kids a chance to meet the crew and tour the helicopter.
“Community relation visits are an important opportunity to get out and show people what we do in the Navy, and particularly in Naval Aviation,” Lieutenant Dank said
“We get to show our appreciation for the public and the support they provide us, and build grass roots relationships with the community.”
The children and other visitors listened excitedly as the pilots described the role of the Seahawk helicopters, which are a primary component of the RAN’s anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capabilities, also providing important surveillance, search and rescue capabilities.
Murrupuriyanuwu Catholic Primary School teacher, Mr Ian Marmont, described the sense of anticipation among the school’s students as they waited for the arrival of the Navy helicopters.
“I’ve been here for four years and this is the first time I’ve seen a visit from any of the armed services, so it would certainly be a first for most of the children.
“A number of the kids have talked about joining the Navy or the Army, but after today I hope that even more of them seriously consider that the Navy can be a great career,” Mr Marmont said.
Exercise KAKADU is the largest warfare exercise hosted by the RAN in 2014, with participation from 15 countries, including ships and aircraft from Japan, New Zealand, Pakistan and the Philippines, as well as Australia.
During the exercise the Seahawks will have a key role in warfare serials, including simulated submarine exercises, anti-surface warfare, boarding exercise, logistics and search and rescue.
The Executive Officer of Coonawarra, Lieutenant Commander Mick Doncaster, welcomed the opportunity to conduct engagement activities like the visit to the Tiwi Islands, showcasing the Navy and its work.
“It is very important to all members of the Royal Australian Navy for the community to see the Navy and what we do.
“Although not always as visible as the ships, our helicopters perform important work every day, supporting Navy’s activities around Australia and internationally,” Lieutenant Commander Doncaster said.