Lieutenant John Hooper is one of three Battle Watch Captains who maintains a 24 hour over-watch on the area of responsibility for Combined Task Force 150 in the Middle East region.
Their area of interest includes the Western Indian Ocean comprising the Gulfs of Aden and Oman, the Red Sea and the North Arabian Sea.
This is vast maritime area of two million square nautical miles presenting a challenging task for Combined Task Force 150 command and headquarters staff responsible for directing ships and aircraft as part of the maritime counterterrorism mission.
Lieutenant Hooper said this geographic challenge is overcome through close coordination of assets positioned in the right place at the right time.
He explains that once a suspect vessel considered to be engaging in smuggling activities was located, the battle watch at Combined Task Force 150 coordinated with seagoing assets to intercept the vessel.
“It’s a case of fusing our intelligence reports with all our other information from a number of agencies, which we then develop into a consolidated maritime picture to see where the patterns lie,” he said.
“When it all comes together as planned we can locate a vessel engaging in terrorism related activities, such as narcotic or charcoal smuggling – it’s a good feeling when the hard working ships and the boarding parties out there make a successful interception and seizure using the information we provided them. It’s a big team effort.
“While what we do here is relatively unsung it’s great to be making a contribution to the Combined Maritime Forces partnership that is ultimately deterring and disrupting the illicit activities that directly fund terrorist organisations.”
Lieutenant Hooper is one of the seven Australians working alongside 24 Canadians to comprise the Canadian-led headquarters staff based in Manama, Bahrain.
Lieutenant Hooper said the integration with the Canadians was great and reflects the enduring and strong relationship between our navies.
“They are really a lot of fun to work with and very professional,” he said.
“We undertook training with our Canadian colleagues over in Halifax, Nova Scotia, prior to deploying here. They were fantastic hosts. We have made some really great friendships.”
Combined Task Force 150 is one of three multinational naval task forces operating under Combined Maritime Forces.
Through maritime security operations, regional engagements and capacity building, Combined Task Force 150 works to deter and deny terrorist organisations from using merchant shipping lanes the high seas for smuggling weapons, illicit cargo and narcotics while ensuring the safe passage of merchant ships in some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.