Boarding operations a career goal for Able Seaman

Published on CPOCSM Matt Jacob (author), ABIS Steven Thomson (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation MANITOU, HMAS Arunta (F151)

Able Seaman Combat Systems Operator David Small preparing to conduct Boarding Party training prior to commencing operations in the Middle East region. (photo: ABIS Steven Thomson)
Able Seaman Combat Systems Operator David Small preparing to conduct Boarding Party training prior to commencing operations in the Middle East region.

Able Seaman Combat Systems Operator David Small is a long way from the small banana farm he grew up on in Wamuran, Queensland.

After three years of service in the Navy he is now deployed to the Middle East region in HMAS Arunta.

Joining as a Combat Systems Operator, Able Seaman Small works in the fast-paced environment of the operations room and specialises in above water warfare.

He is trained to operate advanced radar systems and uses these systems to develop a clear maritime and air surveillance picture to allow command to make tactical decisions and conduct anti-ship missile defence.

This is the first time Able Seaman Small has deployed operationally onboard a Navy ship, which he said is exciting.

“The Navy was a big change for me. I grew up riding dirt bikes and working on my family’s farm,” Able Seaman Small said.

“I worked as a qualified painter for a little while but after visiting a ship during an open day, I knew the Navy would hold some exciting prospects for me.

“As part of my day-to-day role I compile information from multiple sources to ensure that the combat system has the most updated tactical picture.

“Developing the tactical picture is a team effort where everyone is required to be vigilant and make regular assessments to identify potential contacts and react to any potential threats.”

Able Seaman Small said in addition to his role in the operations room, he is also a member of the ship’s boarding team.

“During boarding operations I board and secure suspicious vessels as quickly as possible and carry out searches for illicit cargo, which are potentially being smuggled to support terrorism,” he said.

“Boarding a vessel is a real adrenaline rush and I’m really looking forward to doing my job in an operational environment.”

Able Seaman Small is enjoying the experience of his deployment and looking forward to the opportunities that are ahead.

He said that he joined the Navy with the goal to serve on an operational deployment.

“It has taken three years, but I am finally here and doing the job I signed up to do - it’s a real accomplishment.”

While nine months away from home will be hard, Able Seaman Small said his family is proud and only ever an email away.

“We have lots of communication methods available to us such as email, wifi and the ability to call home,” he said.

He said that all of this helps make life away from home easier.

HMAS Arunta deployed in November 2016, from Garden Island, Rockingham, Western Australia. She is the 64th Australian Navy ship to be deployed to the region since 1990.

The ship is part of the Combined Maritime Forces in the region under Operation MANITOU, Australia’s contribution to counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and narcotics interdiction operations.