3 July 2012
Postcard from the Persian Gulf
by Able Hydrographic Systems Operator Matthew Barber
I and two other Royal New Zealand Navy sailors – Leading Seaman Combat Specialist Joshua Tatana and Able Seaman Combat Specialist Dylan Thomas – joined the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) guided missile frigate HMAS MELBOURNE at the start of September 2011. It is a year-long deployment which will take us to the Middle East, where HMAS MELBOURNE has been taking part in counter-terrorism and anti-piracy operations.
The first week was spent learning the Standard Operating Procedures and the general routines throughout the ship, which has 221 crew and officers. Phew! It was a lot more challenging than I expected. But the crew helped us to transition quickly to become valuable members of the ship’s company.
AHSO Barber in the Persian Gulf: "I feel honoured to have this opportunity to represent the Royal New Zealand Navy in the Middle East and to work alongside our ANZAC brothers."
The ship went into work-up in the next three months. Working round-the-clock with the Green Team (as the ship’s company is referred to) was very challenging. Overall, the ship’s company did an excellent job and we passed both the unit readiness assessment and the mission readiness assessment. The Green Team was very impressed with HMAS MELBOURNE’s performance during the two assessments. Mid-December came around and the three Kiwis were able to fly home and spend Christmas with family and loved ones.
At the end of January 2012, we rejoined the ship back in Fleet Base East, the RAN’s primary naval base on the east coast of Australia. Last-minute stores and preparations were undertaken to get the ship ready to sail on February 11th. It was a busy time! On sailing day, we were all at Procedure Alpha (where as many of the ship’s company dress in no.1 uniform and stand on the upper deck as the ship leaves harbour), waving goodbye to our families. A large number of VIPs, including the Royal New Zealand Navy’s Commodore Gordon Smith, contributed to the massive turnout at the wharf.
It was good to be finally on our way to do the job that we had trained for in the previous three months. I help crew the boat that takes the boarding teams to vessels of interest to check their cargo and papers. Some boardings take only 30 to 45 minutes, while others last for as long as 11 hours. Eleven hours feels like eternity when the temperature is above 40 degrees Celsius, as it is on most days.
On the whole, I feel honoured to have this opportunity to represent the Royal New Zealand Navy in the Middle East and to work alongside our ANZAC brothers. It is great to see that the bond between New Zealand and Australia remains strong.