Fearless mums make a difference in Toowoomba

Published on LCDR Jason Grivas (author), LSIS Richard Cordell (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation MANITOU, HMAS Toowoomba (F156)

HMAS Toowoomba's three mums on the forecastle while the ship is berthed at Bahrain, from left, Chaplain Kate Lord, Chief Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain Deborah Schluter and Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics - Chef Kiralee Ekin. (photo: LSIS Richard Cordell)
HMAS Toowoomba's three mums on the forecastle while the ship is berthed at Bahrain, from left, Chaplain Kate Lord, Chief Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain Deborah Schluter and Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics - Chef Kiralee Ekin.

As the majority of ship’s company in HMAS Toowoomba woke up to call their mums and partners to wish them a happy Mothers’ Day, the shoe was on the other foot for some women serving aboard Toowoomba in the Middle East.

The ship’s honorary mother, Chaplain Kate ‘Madre’ Lord, one of Toowoomba’s three serving mums, said she loved taking care of the ship’s company.

“My two kids are in their 20s now. I miss them, but it’s good for them to learn to manage our house in Melbourne and to be independent.

“Caring for the ship’s company is a bit of an extension of my role as a mum.

“I love the people here, and listening to their stories brings me joy every day,” Chaplain Lord said.

HMAS Toowoomba's three mums on the forecastle while the ship is berthed at Bahrain, from left, Chaplain Kate Lord, Chief Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain Deborah Schluter and Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics - Chef Kiralee Ekin.

HMAS Toowoomba's three mums on the forecastle while the ship is berthed at Bahrain, from left, Chaplain Kate Lord, Chief Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain Deborah Schluter and Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics - Chef Kiralee Ekin.

Chief Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain Deborah Schluter has three children at home and her husband Chief Petty Officer Boatswain Jon Schluter on fulltime parenting duty.

This is Chief Petty Officer Schluter’s first deployment to the Middle Eastern Region, but throughout her career spanning over 20 years she has completed countless other exercises and operations in her time, missing many Mothers’ Days amongst other special occasions.

“My eldest son, Justin (nearly 17), my daughter Evelyn (12), and my youngest son Flynn, who will have just turned 6 by the time we get home, are the ones who make the biggest sacrifices,” Chief Petty Officer Schluter said.

“It’s hard for me to be out here and away from them, but it is harder for them.

“In their short lives, they have had to endure not only one parent leaving for months on end, but two of us.

“They are the strongest, bravest and most resilient children and I am so proud of them.

“I cannot wait to get home, hold them and tell them how much I love them,” she said.

While mums back home in Australia woke up to the smell of burnt toast and sound of giggling children trying to make their mum breakfast in bed, there was no such joy for Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics - Chef Kiralee Ekin, who herself was up early, helping her team cook up breakfast and lunch for the 190 crew in Toowoomba.

Missing Mother’s Day with her seven-year-old son Cooper for the third time in as many years, Leading Seaman Ekin can’t wait to get back to Australia in July to spend time with him, after spending six months on Operation MANITOU.

“He is the happiest, most caring and resilient little boy. I am super proud of him and am missing him more than I can say.

“The things I’m looking forward to the most when I get home are his rough cuddles and spending quality time outdoors camping and doing the things he loves,” Leading Seaman Ekin said, with a tear in her eye.

Whilst tough on any parent, Toowoomba’s ‘Fearless’ mums are a great example of how people from all stages in their life can continue a successful and rewarding career in the Navy.

“We are all equals in Toowoomba. That’s what makes our ship great.

“Just because we are mums, doesn’t mean that we are treated any differently to anyone else onboard.

“We are all one big team,” Chief Petty Officer Schluter said.

Toowoomba has completed four months of her six month Operation MANITOU deployment and is due to return to her home port at Fleet Base West in July.