For most mothers with young children, Mother’s Day is spent with breakfast in bed and home-made gifts or cards or flowers picked from the garden.
For HMAS Success’ Chief Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain Raechelle Henderson, this year her Mother’s Day included breakfast from the ship’s galley, an email from home and a 10-minute phone call with her children.
Chief Petty Officer Henderson is currently in the Middle East on Operation MANITOU, the Australian Government’s contribution to maritime security, counter-piracy and counter-terrorism in the region.
Success has been providing logistics support to warships forming part of the international coalition in support of maritime security as well as conducting anti-terrorism and anti-narcotic patrols around the Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Oman.
Chief Petty Officer Henderson’s role onboard Success as the Senior Naval Police Coxswain and Whole Ship Coordinator is to ensure the maintenance of discipline and good order onboard, plus manage manpower in the ship to achieve the many and varied evolutions whilst at sea.
On 23 November 2014, Chief Petty Officer Henderson was part of the 231 members of ship’s company that sailed from Fleet Base East, Sydney for the six-month deployment.
“This deployment meant that I was leaving behind my two children - Meadow, 8, and Jack, 7, a decision that was not an easy one to make and one that I struggled with for many months before deciding to go ahead,” Chief Petty Officer Henderson said.
“At times I find it very difficult being away from the day to day lives of my children, missing the school run and the frequent swimming, taekwondo lessons and the first school camp has been hard.”
Chief Petty Officer Henderson joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1994 as a Boatswains Mate. She was one of the first female sailors to serve in HMAS Adelaide mid-1995, and changed category to Naval Police Coxswain in 1998.
She was posted to the Naval Investigative Service in 2003 where she trained as a Service Police Investigator and was promoted to Petty Officer.
She then served in HMAS Tobruk in 2010 and was offered promotion to Chief Petty Officer and posted to the Office of the Director of Military Prosecutions in Canberra.
Chief Petty Officer Henderson joined Success in 2013 and has deployed as part of Operations RESOLUTE (Border Protection) and SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN (in search for missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft MH370) and Exercise RIM OF THE PACIFIC (RIMPAC) 2014.
Success has contributed to NATO led counter-piracy Operation OCEAN SHIELD and Centenary of Anzac commemorations in Lemnos and Athens, Greece. The ship is due to return to Sydney soon.
“Although the heartache of leaving my children never fades, I am thankful that I have experienced so much that I would have never been able to if I had not taken up this posting,” she said.
“I have been to parts of the world that I had not seen before and more recently had the privilege to represent Australia as part of the Centenary commemorations in both Lemnos and Athens.
“I have also made some life-long friends and will look back on my time onboard with fond memories for years to come.”
Chief Petty Officer Henderson lives in Canberra where her husband and two children are eagerly awaiting her return home so life can go back to some kind of normality.
Chief Petty Officer Henderson says without the support of her husband she would not have been able to take this opportunity.
“I have managed a weekly phone call whilst at sea with the children and they know mummy is not far from returning home,” she said.
“My children were on the wharf waving me good bye and will be there to welcome me home.
“I am looking forward to returning to Canberra and spending some much needed time with my family before taking on my next challenge within the Navy.”