A long way from the sea

Published on CAPT James Hook (author)

Location(s): Alice Springs, NT

Topic(s): Operation COVID-19 ASSIST

Royal Australian Navy sailor Able Seaman Communication and Information Systems Asahel Heeney takes a break from her duties at the headquarters of NORFORCE’s Centre Squadron in Alice Springs, where she served as a communicator during Operation COVID-19 ASSIST. (photo: )
Royal Australian Navy sailor Able Seaman Communication and Information Systems Asahel Heeney takes a break from her duties at the headquarters of NORFORCE’s Centre Squadron in Alice Springs, where she served as a communicator during Operation COVID-19 ASSIST.

For one Australian Navy sailor, her first operational deployment was a long way from the sea.

Able Seaman Communication and Information Systems Asahel Heeney deployed to Alice Springs - 1200km from the ocean - on Operation COVID-19 ASSIST as part of Joint Task Group 629.7.

“I had 15 hours’ notice that I was deploying,” Able Seaman Heeney said.

“Then I was flown from Darwin to Alice Springs on a RAAF C-130.”

Able Seaman Heeney was based at the headquarters of the North West Mobile Force’s Centre Squadron in Alice Springs.

She was part of the signals rotation, maintaining communications with ADF personnel who were staffing remote border checkpoints alongside Northern Territory Police.

“We worked as watchkeepers on 12-hour shifts, conducting radio checks and listening in case our personnel at the borders needed assistance,” Able Seaman Heeney said.

“I didn’t get to see much of the Red Centre, but I really enjoyed working alongside Army signallers and learning their business language.”

Able Seaman Heeney joined the Navy in Cairns in July 2018.

After three months at Recruit School in Melbourne, she spent 12 months at the Defence Force School of Signals training as a Navy communicator.

In October 2019 she was posted to the Fleet Communications Detachment at HMAS Coonawarra in Darwin.

Joint Task Group 629.7 is helping the Northern Territory Government manage the threat of coronavirus. It is part of the Australian Defence Force’s support for the whole-of-government response to the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the nation.