Final top up as HMAS Newcastle turns for home

This article has photo gallery Published on LCDR Ludovic Miller (author), Royal Canadian Navy (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Newcastle (F06), Replenishment at Sea (RAS)

Newcastle's last RAS in the MEAO with USNS Arctic. (photo: LS Dan Bard)
Newcastle's last RAS in the MEAO with USNS Arctic.

After a successful operational deployment, HMAS Newcastle conducted her final Replenishment at Sea (RAS) in the Middle East and turned her sights to the long homeward journey.

The USNS Arctic, from which HMAS Newcastle was conducting her RAS, was simultaneously servicing the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Toronto alongside.

This was Newcastle’s 14th refuelling at sea and brought the total fuel used during her deployment to 5.4 million litres. Newcastle has travelled over 30,000 nautical miles during her deployment patrolling a large area of operations.

A group of young Navy officers and sailors including Midshipman Daniel Watson, a Phase II Maritime Warfare Officer recently joined the ship in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“The day proved an exciting one because not only was it their first day at sea, it was their first RAS. “It is really exciting to see how well-oiled the Bridge team is,” Midshipman Watson said.

Members of the Ship’s Maritime Logistics Department were also involved in Newcastle’s RAS hauling on the hose line. SMNML-S Craig Jeanes found the evolution a good way to get back into the swing of things.

“I’ve been out of the Navy for 25 years, so getting involved in a RAS certainly brought back some memories. It was great to see a ship from the United States as well.”

Another member of the Maritime Logistics Department, Seaman Megan Arnold, whose only previous experience in refuelling was topping up her beloved Holden Cruze back at home, reflected on her first day at sea on Newcastle.

“Even though it was hot, hard work, it was still enjoyable. Being new at sea and being my first RAS, I didn’t realise it would take so long to do, but I was really excited about finally being at sea,” Seaman Megan Arnold said.

Able Seaman Bronte Whiley said that the RAS was made that much more interesting when Arctic’s mascot, an anthropomorphic polar bear, made an appearance.

“He was awoken from his cave as lines were passed to come out and waved enthusiastically to Newcastle’s crew. He was apparently a little grumpy as he started to attack some unsuspecting line handlers!

“I laughed when I saw the polar bear, usually you just have music playing in a RAS, but to see the bear walking around on the other ship made the time fly. Plus, how often do you see a polar bear in the Middle East?”

Because of the complexity of the RAS and given that there were so many new faces involved it was important to ensure that the proper supervision was given to the new sailors. There’s no one better than someone with over 30 years of naval experience - Chief Petty Officer Electronics Technician Paddy McKeag.

“It was amazing to see so many new and eager faces. Some of them seemed a little worried, but I’ve been involved in over 100 replenishments and was able to calm their nerves and we got the job done safely,” he said.

Someone who took a lot away from the experience was Seaman Daniel Waters, who just 18 days earlier had left HMAS Cerberus after finishing his initial training.

“I can’t believe that after only a couple of hours at sea I was trusted to take part in such an important task,” he said.

“I took this seriously as I want to earn the trust of my shipmates and start to progress my career. I was glad that there were others there to show me the ropes.”

Newcastle was deployed to the MEAO as part of Operation SLIPPER, the Australian Defence Force contribution to the international campaign against terrorism, smuggling and piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and for enhancing regional maritime security and engagement.

Her deployment was the 55th rotation of an Australian warship to the MEAO since 1990.

Imagery is available on the Royal Australian Navy Media Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20131553.

HMAS Newcastle and HMCS Toronto alongside USNS Arctic.

HMAS Newcastle and HMCS Toronto alongside USNS Arctic.