Thousands of defence personnel from across the world are working to stop piracy and illegal drug trafficking in the Middle East region – among those is Commander Ted Cummins.
The 58-year-old Royal Australian Navy communications information warfare officer has deployed on Operation MANITOU in support of the United States-led Combined Maritime Forces.
Over the past six months, he has been responsible for operational communication systems and networks embedded at the United States Navy Headquarters in Bahrain.
“As the Director of Communications and Information Systems, I am the principal advisor on all communications and network issues,” Commander Cummins said.
The Force has three Combined Task Forces - 150 for maritime security and counter-terrorism, 151 for counter piracy and 152 for Arabian Gulf security and cooperation.
Commander Cummins provides advice to facilitate the exchange of operational information in support of each.
“Ultimately my role is to coordinate and maintain effective communications with coalition military forces, interagency partners, and other organisations,” he said.
Without the Combined Maritime Forces, Commander Cummins said stability and security in the region would be highly disrupted.
“Combined Maritime Forces operations span 3.2 million square miles of international waters encompassing some of the world’s most important shipping lanes,” he said.
“These lanes provide the maritime highway for much of the world’s legitimate trade, but they are also used to smuggle illicit drugs and other materials into the Middle East region to fund terrorism.”
Contributing to such an important international mission has been a highlight for Commander Cummins who enlisted in 1975 in search of adventure.
“When my two older brothers returned home from leave they would tell stories of their time at sea and exotic foreign ports and it didn’t take much to convince me to seek out the same adventures,” he said.
At just 16, straight out of Year 10, or 4th Form as it was called, he left his town of Goulburn to enlist as a Junior Recruit before commissioning from Warrant Officer in 2001.
Over 42 years of service Commander Cummins has spent the majority of his career in the communications field and a good portion of it learning the processes of allied navies.
His career has included postings to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, DC (2005-2007), and to the US Central Command Headquarters in Tampa, Florida (2014-2017).
“Coming to Combined Maritime Forces after being posted to US Central Command Headquarters in Florida set me up well for this role,” he said.
“Central Command is the Combatant Command Headquarters for the Middle East area of operations.
“I developed a good understanding of how a US Navy Central Command headquarters works, and the communications systems available to it.”
Commander Cummins said working in a multi-national environment can have its challenges but ultimately benefits the mission.
“International partnerships bring together a diverse range of people and organisations – this diversity can strengthen our effort by broadening perspective and understanding of the issues we are dealing with daily,” he said.
Commander Cummins recently completed a handover with his Korean replacement and is looking forward to returning home to his family and a well-earned break before commencing a new role within the Chief Information Officer Group, based in Sydney.