The Warrnambool community were granted a rare opportunity to see a warship on Tuesday, when HMAS Melbourne conducted a close proximity transit during her return voyage to her homeport Garden Island, Sydney.
As dusk set in, Melbourne launched her embarked S-70B Seahawk helicopter, affectionately known as ‘Dominator’, which released a short volley of flares.
The flares are normally used for self protection should the helicopter come under attack from anti air missiles and were fired as part a routine Flight Training Exercise. Commanding Officer HMAS Melbourne, Commander Brian Schlegel has family links to the town of Warrnambool and served as Executive Officer of the former patrol boat HMAS Warrnambool.
He said the ship was programmed to steam past on her return leg to Sydney, so the opportunity to put on a display of support to Navy friends and family in Warrnambool was too good to pass up
“As a very proud Victorian, I wanted to advertise Melbourne’s return from such a lengthy and successful deployment,” said Commander Schlegel.
“I have fantastic childhood memories of Warrnambool and continue to holiday here with my wife and young children. The close passage provided us with an opportunity to show the local community something they don’t see that often.”
“My aunt and uncle Bill and Lydia Sinclair also reside in Warrnambool and are active members of the local community. To be able to put on this display so shortly after Lydia has celebrated her 80th birthday is great timing, as it was Lydia and Bill that challenged me to join the Navy some 30 years ago,” said Commander Schlegel.
Melbourne is on the final stage of her return leg to Sydney, after a successful six month deployment on Operation SLIPPER, the ADF contribution to the international campaign against terrorism, counter smuggling and counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and enhancing regional maritime security and engagement.
The ship sailed from Sydney in August 2013 and while deployed intercepted over A$1 billion dollars of narcotics and apprehended nine suspected pirates.
Commander Schlegel says his ship’s company of 232 is getting excited to be so close to home.
“We have had an incredibly successful six months. Despite our success, it is always hard to be away from loved ones for so long. As we approach Sydney you can feel the ship’s excitement building,” said Commander Schlegel.