From Granville to the Gulf

Published on LEUT Michelle Rayner (author), ABIS Tom Gibson (photographer)

Petty Officer Combat System Supervisor Steven Schonrock with his wife Mel and two daughters, Kensie and Ivy at the farewell of the Combined Maritime Force’s Canadian led Combined Task Force 150 before he departs for the Middle East. (photo: ABIS Tom Gibson)
Petty Officer Combat System Supervisor Steven Schonrock with his wife Mel and two daughters, Kensie and Ivy at the farewell of the Combined Maritime Force’s Canadian led Combined Task Force 150 before he departs for the Middle East.

For Petty Officer Steven Schonrock of Maryborough, Queensland, swapping travelling around Australia and working as a deckhand, for travelling around the world working as a Combat Systems Operator in the Royal Australian Navy was a challenging but rewarding step.
 
Currently deployed as part of Operation MANITOU, 35-year old Petty Officer Schonrock is working ashore as a Battlewatch Assistant as part of Combined Maritime Forces Combined Task Force 150 Headquarters staff, based in Bahrain in the Middle East Region.
 
Petty Officer Schonrock has come a long way since graduating from Saint Mary’s High School, with a Navy career spanning 16 years across both coasts of Australia, South-East Asia, Hawaii and the Middle East, presenting many opportunities and challenges.
 
“Being able to learn my category through training ashore and at sea, and then being able to put it into practice during simulated combat exercises such as RIMPAC in Hawaii has been an incredible experience,” he said.
 
“As a Combat Systems Operator working in the operations room (or nerve centre) of our front line warships, constantly adapting to new and different weapons systems and how threats can be tracked and identified in an unfamiliar environment can present challenges. However, I have found that it enables me to continuously learn and improve my skills, as well as teaching me to think quickly on my feet.”
 
While he misses playing weekend soccer at Granville Soccer Club and spending time fishing and camping at Fraser Island, he makes the most of every opportunity to visit his parents in his home town with his wife and two daughters.
 
“While I can only get home once or twice a year, it’s always great to come home for large family gatherings such as Christmas, where I get to see all my relatives and friends, going camping, playing backyard cricket and watching the footy as we always have over the years.”
 
Having being involved in Operations WARDEN, RELEX, ANODE and SLIPPER, in places such as East Timor, Solomon Islands and the Middle East, he is no stranger to being away from home in an operational environment. However, his current role is slightly different, in that he is operating from the headquarters ashore as opposed to being part of the Task Force at sea.
 
“Having been deployed under Combined Task Force 150 previously at sea in HMAS Anzac and now being part of the Battlewatch directing ships assigned, I’ve now experienced both sides of operations and have a greater appreciation for how and why specific tasks are undertaken, which is a great learning experience,” he said.
 
The task force contributes to a multi-national naval partnership that focusses on maintaining freedom of navigation by defeating terrorism on the high seas, preventing piracy, encouraging regional cooperation, and promoting a safe maritime environment in the Middle East Region. As one of three task forces it works to deter and deny terrorist organisations from using the maritime domain to fund their activities, through maritime security operations, regional engagements and capacity building with the regional naval and security forces. The current headquarters staff is unique in that it is a combined Canadian and Australian rotation, comprised of 24 Canadians and seven Australians.
 
“As part of our pre-deployment training, we spent two weeks in Halifax, Canada, meeting our new counterparts and conducting training and certification. Since then in our short deployment so far, we have worked really well together and have been involved in a number of boardings, with hopefully many more to follow,” he said.