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Stephanie Horswood - Gympie

Office work just didn't cut it for a Gympie girl who is now patrolling the Middle East region as a sailor deployed aboard HMAS Melbourne on Operation Manitou.

Leading Seaman (LS) Electronics Technician Stephanie Horswood now specialises in the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System (CIWS), used on Melbourne for anti-missile defence.

Operation Manitou is Australia's contribution to the multinational Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), whose mandate includes undertaking patrols to intercept the trafficking of drugs that help fund terrorism.

LS Horswood said joining the Navy in 2009 was an impulse decision she never regretted.

"I just rang the recruitment office and said let me join, I will do any job," she said.

"I loved recruit training and embraced the Navy experience, it was such a lifestyle change for me.

"I was told I could choose what career I wanted, so I streamed for electronics then decided to specialise in the CIWS.

"The 'Sea Whiz' is the ship's last defence against anti-ship missiles and fires close to 4500 rounds per minute.

"It is a fantastic weapon - it can take out anything and I love maintaining it."

The CWIS consists of a radar-guided 20mm Gatling gun mounted on a swivelling base with a purpose-made mounting capable of fast elevation and traverse speeds to track incoming targets.

The entirely self-contained unit includes the mount that houses the gun, an automated fire-control system and other components enabling the CWIS to automatically search for targets then detect, track, engage and confirm the target's destruction using a computer-controlled radar system.

LS Horswood said basic maintenance on the CWIS was an ongoing routine, which included checking the different electronic components.

"There are many subsystems that together ensure proper operation, such as the environmental control, transmitter, mount movement control, power control and distribution," said.

"My days consist of 12-hour shifts and every day the CIWS is tested to ensure the gun is ready for action at any moment."

LS Horswood said Operation Manitou was her second operational deployment to the Middle East on Melbourne as she previously served on Operation Slipper in 2012-13.

On Melbourne's first patrol of this 2015 deployment, a drug smuggling vessel was intercepted and 427 kilograms of heroin were seized and brought aboard for identification and disposal.

The drugs were estimated to have a street value of nearly $127 million AUD.

"We have already had a successful mission this trip, LS Horswood said.

"I am proud of the job we are doing in these waters by stopping the drugs that support terrorism."

LS Horswood said Melbourne has a very friendly crew.

"Everyone gets along and is always happy - it's our home away from home," she said.

"I have a group of friends onboard and we are learning how to play guitar in our spare time.

LS Horswood said despite the adventure she does miss family and friends.

"I am looking forward to catching up with my parents in Gympie and my old James Nash High School friends next year," she said.

"Hopefully I will see my brother, Brendan, who is working as a Jackaroo in north Queensland, as I have not seen him for about two years."