Three Royal New Zealand Navy sailors have successfully completed a six month deployment protecting vital international shipping routes.
The Kiwi sailors, embarked on Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS MELBOURNE, were supporting Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150), a multi-national maritime counter-terrorism task force operating in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman.
CTF 150 is one of three task forces operated by the US-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a 25-nation coalition. The NZ Defence Force’s support to CTF 150 demonstrates New Zealand’s commitment to protecting vital international shipping routes, ensuring security and stability in the international maritime environment. The area of CTF150 operations encompasses over two million square miles and includes the main shipping routes from the Far East to Europe and the United States.
In the last few years, the NZ Defence Force has committed around a dozen Naval officers and sailors to Task Force 150 and 151, most notable was last year when RNZN officers commanded CTF 151, says Maritime Component Commander, Commodore John Martin.
"Our three sailors who, along with many other New Zealand Naval personnel, have contributed to the conduct of maritime security operations in a challenging environment. Their work is testimony to their professionalism, training and leadership. The country is right to be proud of their service."
The New Zealand sailors deployed to Australia in September 2011 to take part in the work-up programme for HMAS MELBOURNE in preparation for conducting CTF150 operations from March 2012. The ship arrived back in Sydney this week. The three sailors were met by family and friends, and will now enjoy some leave in Australia before returning back to New Zealand.
Able Seaman Combat Specialist Dylan Thomas says the mission also demonstrates the Defence Force’s close ties and interoperability with our Australian counterparts.
"It was a pleasure working beside our ANZAC counterparts as Australian and New Zealand forces have done since World War I. I made a lot of new Australian mates but of course, nothing beats the mates I have back home," he says.
"We conducted anti-piracy and counter-terrorism operations with Royal Australian Navy personnel to help ensure a safe passage for merchant sailors transiting through the Middle East.
"My main job was to act as one of the crew of a rigid hull inflatable boat for the boarding team. With the mercury often hitting 48 degrees Celsius, boardings sometimes seemed interminable when they lasted up to 11 hours. We regularly conducted two to three boardings a day on smaller dhows, traditional sailing vessels.
Leading Seaman Combat Specialist Joshua Tatana added that it was a great experience and opportunity: "The ship was constantly busy, conducting operations to support the deployment or carrying out regular maintenance. It was also an opportunity to learn new operating procedures working with our Australian sailors. I wouldn’t change the experience for anything."
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