HMAS Melbourne has taken on a more Anzac appearance in the Middle East thanks to the inclusion of Kiwi sailors to the ship’s crew.
Three Royal New Zealand Navy personnel are deployed onboard while she patrols the Middle East as part of Operation MANITOU the Australian contribution to the multinational Combined Maritime Forces.
Sub Lieutenant Sophie Going, along with Leading Seamen Combat Specialists Jack Walters and Jordon McHugh, are contributing to the ship’s work in intercepting narcotics used to help fund international terrorism. Melbourne undertakes this maritime security operations work with Combined Task Force 150 in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf.
Sub Lieutenant Going said her posting to Melbourne as an Officer of the Watch was an extension to her 12-month posting to Australia for her Phase IV training, allowing her to gain operational experience.
“Phase IV is the last stage of training for an Officer of the Watch,” she said.
“It includes a month of studying warfare theory followed by five-months training in the bridge simulator at HMAS Watson before the final assessment.”
Sub Lieutenant Going joined the Royal New Zealand Navy in 2012 and has been to Australia on a previous posting to work on Armidale class patrol boats. After more training in New Zealand on other ships, including the multirole vessel HMNZS Canterbury, she returned to Australia. Sub Lieutenant Going said it was exciting to be a part of the operation and have the opportunity to be on an Australian warship.
“It’s also nice to have some other Kiwis onboard who will be able to soften the blow for the Aussies after the World Cup,” she said.
“The mission we are conducting on Melbourne is extremely important because we are helping to stop the trafficking of illegal drugs.
“The first boardings and searches of suspected vessels were a highlight and it is exciting to be doing what we had been training to do.”
On Melbourne’s first patrol of 2015, the crew intercepted, boarded and searched a fishing dhow suspected of illegal activity in the Arabian Sea. During the search 427kg of heroin was seized and brought onboard for identification and disposal. The value of the drugs was close $127M AUD.
The Leading Seamen were posted to Melbourne in June in time for the ship’s workups in preparation for the deployment.
Their main role is to drive the sea boats used by the boarding parties and as their qualifications are equivalent to Australian Navy boatswains they are only too happy to jump-in and help with the work where needed on the ship.
Leading Seaman Walters said he was excited to visit Australian and work with his counterparts in Melbourne.
“It’s very special because this is 2015 and the Centenary of Anzac,” he said.
“The spirit of 100 years of Australian and New Zealand forces working together is still going strong.”
Leading Seaman Walters joined the Navy in 2008, straight out of high school, and has spent most of his career at sea. He has travelled most of the Pacific Ocean including Australia, Hawaii, Guam and Asia and served on HMNZS Canterbury in South Samoa following the tsunami in 2009. He then spent time on the Anzac class frigate HMNZS Te Kaha.
Leading Seaman Walters said Operation MANITOU was his first operational tour of the Middle East region.
“I am proud of the work we are doing stopping the funds for terrorism, and I have met some great people in Melbourne, who will be mates for life,” he said.
“The Aussies are top blokes and the way they have treated the New Zealanders onboard is a true testament to Australian hospitality.”
Leading Seaman McHugh is a former civilian dive instructor with a love of the sea and found the Navy to be a natural fit for his desire for a career on the water. He said his uncle, who was in the Navy, was the biggest influence on his decision to be a sailor. He began his busy naval career in 2006 on the survey ship HMNZS Resolution. He then transferred to the tanker HMNZS Endeavour for a Pacific Rim trip, which visited Singapore for Exercise BERSAMA SHIELD and then went to South Korea, Canada, the United States, Hawaii and Tahiti. Leading Seaman McHugh also worked on patrol boats before transferring to HMNZS Otago for fisheries patrols on two deployments to Antarctica during Operation CASTLE. He said it was a fantastic experience to be deployed to the Arabian Gulf in Melbourne.
“The operation has been varied, which keeps sea life interesting and the crew is great,” he said.
“Operation MANITOU has given us an opportunity to contribute to Combined Task Force 150 and prevent the trafficking of drugs which provide funds for terrorists.”
Melbourne is on her eighth deployment to the region and is the 61st rotation of a Australian Navy vessel in the region since the first Gulf War in 1991.
Imagery is available on the Navy Image Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20153089.