Tasmanian man looks forward to Steel Deck BBQ

Published on LEUT Tony White (author), LSIS Jo Dilorenzo (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation RESOLUTE

Able Seaman Joel Murray onboard HMAS Parramatta for Christmas, patrolling northern Australian waters. (photo: LSIS Jo Dilorenzo)
Able Seaman Joel Murray onboard HMAS Parramatta for Christmas, patrolling northern Australian waters.

The weather over the Christmas/New Year period in Tasmania can be notoriously fickle, but one former Tasmanian who left to join the Navy and see the world is fairly confident he will be wearing shorts for at least some of Christmas Day.

Joel Murray is one of nine siblings who was home schooled near Sheffield in northern Tasmania, but he had a childhood dream of joining the Navy and seeing the world.

There is a popular perception in the Navy that Tasmania has always provided more than its fair share of recruits, for its population size. Twenty-one year-old Able Seaman Joel Murray joined the Navy in 2012 to work in a job category that would be familiar to generations of Tasmanian sailors: Boatswains Mate.

Boatswains Mates (pronounced Bosuns) are the Navy’s corps of professional seaman. They do the anchor work, rope work, small boat handling, berthing, towing and replenishment (re-fuelling) at sea. Boatswain’s Mates are also the Navy’s close range weapon specialists using and maintaining the F88 Austeyr rifle, F89 machine gun, 9mm pistol, 870P shotgun and batons.

All these skills are coming together for young Joel Murray this Christmas, which he’ll spend at sea, deployed aboard HMAS Parramatta assigned to Operation RESOLUTE. As such, he’ll spend the festive season contributing to the Australia’s border protection efforts across the nation’s northern maritime border.

As a Boatswains Mate, Able Seaman Murray will be expected to take the helm and drive the 3600-tonne warship, under the direction of the Officer of the Watch. He will also be expected to take charge of the ship’s Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats that can carry boarding parties at speeds of 70 kmh to intercept Suspected Irregular Entry Vessels.

Joel’s skills in weapon handling and force protection will mean that he will have a key role in providing ‘Force Protection’ as a member of the ship’s boarding parties, and his boat handling skills will mean that he is a key resource for making sure that the whole exercise is done in a safe manner.

It is at these times, in the conduct of real operations, that Joel believes some of the strongest bonds are built between boarding party members who encounter new people, new challenges and new hazards each time they board a new vessel.

“Missing Christmas at home is worth it if it means that I’m serving my country and ensuring no harm comes to the people who arrive here on boats,” he said.

He will experience some Christmas cheer though, work requirements permitting. The former Barman at Irish Murphy’s in Hobart can expect a ‘Steel Deck BBQ’ on the ship’s flight deck on Christmas Day and if the Commanding Officer permits, may even have the chance to switch out of protective clothing into shorts for some downtime in the tropical heat.

Able Seaman Murray will be back in Hobart in March when the snow will probably be returning to Mount Wellington, but until then he wants his family to know he misses them and is looking forward to a ‘Catch-Up Christmas’ when he gets home.