The RAN personnel are deployed under Operation MANITOU to the Canadian-led CTF150 headquarters that comprises 17 personnel from the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), two from the Royal Canadian Air Force, three from the Canadian Army and two civilians from the Canadian public service.
Commander CFT150 Commodore Brian Santarpia (RCN) said the integration between the different elements and especially the two nations was a fantastic construct that reflected the strong relationship between the two defence forces.
“Both Canada and Australia have regularly contributed to Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), and being here as often as we are and as we share the same mission objectives, the logical step was to be here at the same time, working together and in turn learn from each other’s experiences,” he said.
“Right from the beginning we have been planning and working in this integrated construct; my deputy and chief of staff is CAPT Nick Stoker from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and his team have been with us through all phases of planning and training from June 2014,, including two weeks in Ottawa, Ontario, and another week and a half in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“I think there is real synergy and strength in continuing with this model. As each CTF Command tenure only lasts about four months, the integration between nations helps to capitalize on all of the respective nation’s experience, and in turn maintain continuity making the hand over process between command rotations more efficient.”
CAPT Stoker said deploying personnel on Operation MANITOU as members of the Canadian-led CTF150 was an important contribution to Australia’s commitment to a secure and stable MER.
“Filling key leadership positions like my present role and contributing ships and personnel as part of CMF and CTF150 reflects the Australian Government’s commitment to the US-led CMF,” he said.
“Beyond the seven Australian staff members integrated into this Canadian-led headquarters, Australia has other permanent positions in CMF much like the Canadians, fulfilling important roles contributing to maritime security and stability in the region.”
CAPT Stoker said there were many challenges associated with achieving the mission in the MER, primarily covering the vast area of operations which encompasses more than two million square nautical miles.
“The sheer size of our CTF150 area of operations presents a challenge to the reconnaissance aircraft and ships tasked to conduct maritime security operations.”
“We overcome this through good coordination and cooperation between the 30 member nations of CMF working side by side to achieve the mission – this ensures we get the right assets and people into the right place at the right time.”
“Within CTF150 the Australians are very proud to be working with their Canadian counterparts, representing our country in what is a very important mission. We have a group of highly motivated and professional people working here who are making a difference in terms of keeping the waterways secure.”
LEUT John Hooper is one of three Battle Watch Captains who maintains a 24 hour over-watch on the area of responsibility for CTF150.
Their area of interest includes the Western Indian Ocean comprising the Gulfs of Aden and Oman, the Red Sea and the North Arabian Sea. This is vast maritime area presenting a challenging task for CTF150 command and headquarters staff responsible for directing ships and aircraft as part of the maritime counter-terrorism mission.
LEUT Hooper said this geographic challenge is overcome through close coordination of assets positioned in the right place at the right time. He explained that once a suspect vessel considered to be engaging in smuggling activities is located, the battle watch at CTF150 coordinates seagoing assets to intercept the vessel.
“It’s a case of fusing our intelligence reports with all our other information from a number of agencies, which we then develop into a consolidated maritime picture to see where the patterns lie,” he said.
“When it all comes together as planned we can locate a vessel engaging in terrorism related activities, such as narcotics smuggling – it’s a good feeling when the hard working ships and the boarding parties out there make a successful interception and seizure using the information we’ve provided them. It’s a big team effort.
“While what we do here is relatively unsung it’s great to be making a contribution to CMF that is ultimately deterring and disrupting the illicit activities that directly fund terrorist organisations.”
LEUT Michelle Rayner is the N41 officer at CTF150 in Manama, Bahrain, responsible for logistics support for operational units at sea as well as personnel administration and finance within CTF150 headquarters.
“I do this not only for the Australians here but I support my Canadian supervisor (N4) and his Sergeant with their roles, as well as administer the central registry and assist with managing finance,” she said.
“In support of all ships and crews at sea, one of my roles is to support the N4 in coordinating refuelling support for CTF150 assets who need replenishment at sea – as such, we are in constant contact with the tanker task force (TF53) to organise fuel and supplies for them to ensure they remain topped-up.
“I also assist our Canadian task force public affairs officer with Australian related articles and imagery to ensure our regional partners and those back home are kept informed of what we are achieving over here. All of this keeps me quite busy – I get to wear many different hats, which also keeps my job interesting.”
“We have been deployed so far for just under two months, and I find the work very rewarding. It certainly is a great experience integrating with the Canadians, learning from each other both in and outside the headquarters environment – we’re even teaching them to play cricket!”.
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