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Sunshine Coast sailor tackles war weapons

Becoming a sailor was a natural career path for Angela Stephenson who comes from a Navy family on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland.

Able Seaman Stephenson is today a 22 year old Maritime Logistics – Steward who recently joined HMAS Choules which is involved in the removal of WWII-era war weapons from Bougainville in the South Pacific.

After graduating from Mountain Creek State High School, Angela decided to follow the footsteps of her father, Wayne, her brother Kurt, and her sister Kayla, and join the Navy.

After graduating from Navy Recruit School at HMAS Cerberus she went on to complete a Certificate III in Hospitality, preparing her for service on HMAS Sydney, HMAS Success, and currently, HMAS Choules.

Angela serves in Choules which is involved in Operation Render Safe, a key element of Australia’s enduring commitment to make safe the explosive remnants of war (ERW) in the South Pacific. 

Serving on board HMAS Choules may not be as relaxing as the Sunshine Coast at all times, but Angela continues to enjoy the weather and the beaches along the way.

While preparing to serve another excellent meal in the Wardroom, Angela said:

"I look forward to participating in the upcoming events before returning home for a long awaited visit to family and friends."

Angela has been very busy as a Maritime Logistics Steward during Operation Render Safe.

She currently serves meals to over 81 people three times a day, completes upper deck sentry watches when not on duty, closes up at Forward Repair base during whole of ship damage control exercises; and conducts hotel services for 20 officers’ cabins as well as serving in the ships canteen daily.

"Operation Render Safe has been an interesting experience and at times challenging with long hours; however knowing you are helping people live safer lives makes it all worth it and rewarding."

Operation Render Safe involves making safe the explosive remnants of war (ERW) in the South Pacific. 

The Australian Defence Force led the combined contribution of effort from various countries during Operation Render safe with to remove bombs, weapons and ammunition remaining from WWII in islands in and around Bougainville.

Choules and her embarked personnel of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) specialists, clearance divers and medical officers participated in the operation from October 24 to November 7.

The scale of this year’s operation meant the Combined Taskforce was on track to make a real dent in the size of the problem facing the local people.

The annual tasking is a key element of Australia’s enduring commitment to make safe the explosive remnants of war in the South Pacific.

Exact numbers of how much ordinance remains on Bougainville is hard to estimate, but the last Op Render Safe, conducted in Solomon Islands in 2013, disposed of more than 12,000 unexploded objects.

Bougainville was the scene of heavy fighting in WWII where more than 500 Australians and 40,000 Japanese soldiers were killed in combat or from illness.

This fierce fighting left behind an enduring legacy of munitions that litters farm land poses a real threat to generations of local people.

500 ADF members participated in Op Render Safe, at the invitation of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, and with the approval of the PNG National Government.

Over four and a half years in the Navy, and Angela has had the opportunity to be a part of the George Washington Strike Task Group in 2013, exercise Talisman Sabre, and other various operations, and has earned the Australian Defence Service Medal (ADSM).