It was a year of milestones for HMAS Choules, with the ship proving her value on operation and during a number of amphibious training and aviation exercises.
Choules returned to sea in March, after an extended period of defect rectification, which saw all six of her power distribution transformers replaced. The ship’s company worked hard to complete sea assurance testing and the ship was certified as fully operational capable in April.
Ship’s training officer, Lieutenant Commander Sarah Mills says that it was great to get back to sea.
“Everyone was excited when got the chance to take Choules back to sea. She is an amazing capability and has proven herself over the course of the year,” said Lieutenant Commander Mills.
During 2013, the ship took part in joint amphibious Exercise SEA LION with the Australian Army, before joining the major combined US Defence Force Exercise TALISMAN SABRE. During the exercise, Choules excelled and demonstrated her reliability as a platform and a modern, powerful and effective asset for the Australian Defence Force.
Towards the end of TALISMAN SABRE, the Landing Ship Dock was re-tasked to support the Government directed task Operation LANDSCAPE in Papua New Guinea.
Between July and October, Choules successfully supported the Department of Immigration and Border Protection operation, providing maritime support to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection efforts to increase the capacity of the facilities on Manus Island. During this time, the ship provided a floating home to about 230 Australian Government personnel and service providers working.
Lieutenant Commander Mills says 2013 provided a range of opportunities and unique experiences for the ship’s company.
“Operation LANDSCAPE was a wonderful opportunity. The Papua New Guineans are a beautiful people and it was great to be able to interact with them and to be able to help the Government,” said Lieutenant Commander Mills.
“One of the highlights for the crew was holding our own International Fleet Review, which gave everyone a good laugh. We were originally scheduled to take part in the IFR, so we decided to hold our own, so as to feel part of the celebrations back at home.”
While Choules spent most of the year at sea, Lieutenant Commander Mills said, the ship’s company met everyone challenge.
“Despite spending lengthy time away from friends and family, we did it with gusto and a sense of humour. Everyone was ready and raring to go,’” said Lieutenant Commander Mills.
While the ship’s company of Choules are enjoying some rest and respite over the Christmas period, the ship is one of three ships assigned as the Humanitarian and Disaster Response Vessels and is ready to live up to its motto - face difficulty with zeal.