Australia-Malaysia exercises kick off with sporting spirit

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Tanalee Smith (author), LSIS Tara Byrne (photographer)

Location(s): Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Topic(s): Sport, HMAS Stuart (F153), HMAS Sirius (A266), East Asia Deployment

Members from HMA Ships Stuart and Sirius combine forces for a MASTEX Cup soccer competition against the Royal Malaysian Navy in Sabah, Malaysia, during their East Asia Deployment. (photo: LSIS Tara Byrne)
Members from HMA Ships Stuart and Sirius combine forces for a MASTEX Cup soccer competition against the Royal Malaysian Navy in Sabah, Malaysia, during their East Asia Deployment.

The Australian and Malaysian navies quite literally kicked off their maritime training exercise this week with some good-natured sporting rivalry on the soccer field, volleyball court and tug-of-war ground.

The stands were filled with enthusiastic members of the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) and ships’ companies from HMA Ships Stuart and Sirius, cheering on their teams as they vied for the MASTEX Cup.

RMN Sub Lieutenant Syazwan said the ‘sporting spirit’ would lead to closer ties.

“It is good to come out and have a fun competition because we can become friends through sports and that also helps us in our training relationship,” he said.

The sports afternoon followed an official ceremony to open Exercise MASTEX 19, the key bilateral exercise between the two navies that takes place every two years.

Captain Doug Griffiths, Assistant Defence Advisor to the High Commissioner of Australia in Malaysia, said MASTEX was the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the two countries’ naval cooperation.

“As enduring maritime partners, our ability to work together remains important to regional security.

“We are navies with great bonds, shared history and strong professional and personal interactions,” Captain Griffiths said.

Captain Azhar bin Baharum of the Royal Malaysian Navy explained that the objective of the exercise was to incorporate common practices both ashore and at sea.

“Various evolutions and exercises have been planned so we can exchange knowledge in order to incorporate and enhance the interoperability of our navies.

“This is also to enhance the bilateral relationship between Australia and Malaysia so that we will have a better understanding whether we are at sea or ashore,” Captain Azhar said. 

Following joint workshops, training and planning in the harbour phase of MASTEX, Stuart and Sirius will interact with RMN frigates, a helicopter and a submarine during the sea phase.

The interaction at sea will include boarding exercises, a replenishment at sea, gunnery, air warfare and anti-submarine warfare.

Back at the RMN sports stadium, Leading Seaman Marine Technician Michael Williams from Sirius was cheering on his shipmate, who was the anchor on the RAN’s tug-of-war team.

“It’s good to build this relationship with our partners. More is one: if anything happens, it’s good to know we have back-up,” Leading Seaman Williams said.

While his shipmate helped the Australians win the tug-of-war contest, the Malaysians triumphed in volleyball and soccer and took home this year’s MASTEX Cup.

Stuart and Sirius are part of two task groups of 11 ships and more than 1000 personnel visiting regional partners in North and South East Asia for multinational exercises and regional engagement activities.