Christmas came early at Lenny and Jackie Gay’s Stawell household a few months ago, when the Gay family swapped gifts and had an early Christmas dinner before daughter Melissa deployed aboard HMAS Parramatta.
Melissa Gay will spend Christmas at sea, serving her country as part of Operation RESOLUTE - the Australian government’s border protection operation. For Melissa, it will be a double celebration as she will also be celebrating her 22nd birthday aboard the ship on Christmas Eve.
While older sister Ribbi is investigating joining the RAAF, Able Seaman Electronic Warfare sailor Melissa Gay joined the Navy three years ago and now operates some of the most high-tech electronic warfare systems that the Royal Australian Navy has ever known.
Growing up watching old war movies with her dad, Melissa had wanted to join the Australian Defence Force since primary school. As an Electronic Warfare specialist, Melissa uses specialised sensors and hi-tech equipment to intercept, locate, and identify electronic transmissions from both friendly and hostile forces.
In ways that would be a complete mystery to the characters in old war movies, Electronic Warfare sailors track the emissions of every day life at sea to inform command on who is around the Australian warships at sea, and what they are getting up to.
However, Melissa’s training and duties would be more familiar to the sailors of old. The former Marian College student now finds herself fully trained up in ‘Force Protection’ measures, using equipment such as the F88 Steyr rifle and the Browning 9mm semi-automatic pistol. She is also part of the Ship’s Medical Emergency Team.
She has even picked up some much older ship maintenance skills, like painting, sanding and rope work; all important skills for the modern day sailor who has to play her part in keeping a large man-made structure afloat, as was done by the sailors of 150 years ago who operated in the same harsh marine environment.
This training has given Melissa a newfound confidence in herself and has allowed her to develop her leadership skills and making a valuable contribution to the operation.
This operational capability and the work she and her shipmates are doing is important to Melissa and she enjoys seeing how everyone on the ship performs the dozens of roles are required on any given day.
“Because of the chefs, the admin staff, the medical staff, and everyone else doing their jobs, it’s a great ship to work on,” Melissa said.
“But, the most rewarding thing about being involved in Operation RESOLUTE is putting the training into practice and saving people’s lives,” she said.