Seven long months away from home ended with an ecstatic family reunion for HMAS Melbourne sailor Chief Petty Officer Electronics Technician Craig Fowler, after returning from Operation MANITOU in the Middle East.
Chief Petty Officer Fowler is just one of 223 mariners who were reunited with family and friends alongside in Sydney, as the frigate returned from a highly-successful deployment where they intercepted and destroyed about $390 million in drugs.
Chief Petty Officer Fowler was greeted by his wife and six children, aged 11 to 22.
"It's been a great trip, but a long one," he said.
"It's great to be home, I've have been looking forward to this day just like the rest of the crew onboard have been.
"We can call home from the ship, but being able to hug your family and see your kids is just a great feeling. I can't wait to sleep in my own bed and do the things that families do on a daily basis.
“This was my fifth deployment to the Middle East region since I was first there in 1990,” Chief Petty Officer Fowler said.
More than 1,000 people greeted HMAS Melbourne as she returned from the Middle East.
Melbourne's Commanding Officer, Commander Bill Waters, praised his crew for their dedication, hard work but also to the families who have been the rock and support of those deployed.
"We might be at work doing our job but the families at home also deploy with us," he said.
"They are the one still taking the kids to school and keeping the household in order.
"I cannot thank the families at home enough for their efforts to welcome us home today and also their valuable support while we have been deployed.
"To the kids, your mums and dads have done a great job and thank-you for letting them help me for the past seven months - you've earned those long-awaited presents you’ve been asking for!"