A 22-year-old Launceston woman has joined Australia’s commitment to combat terrorists in the Middle East and will be away from home for the first time over Christmas.
Royal Australian Navy sailor, Able Seaman (AB) Communications Information Systems Kelsie Wright, is a member of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150), based at the Naval Support Activity in Manama, Bahrain.
CTF 150 is responsible for the interception of drugs at sea in the Middle East and is one of several task forces that fall under the command of the multinational Combined Maritime Forces, which undertakes a range of maritime security operations in the region.
Its area of operations spans more than two million square miles, covering the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, the North Arabian Sea and Western Indian Ocean.
AB Wright said she joined the Navy once she had finished her studies at Exeter High School in the Tamar Valley.
"I was 19-years-old and in search of adventure," she said.
"Some of my cousins are in the Navy and my brother, Seaman Aidan Wright, has just joined as well as an electronics technician.
"The family joke is the Wrights will one day take over the service."
AB Wright first deployed with the Navy on HMAS Choules to Bougainville in 2014 for Operation Render Safe, which is a regional program to remove unexploded bombs, weapons and ammunition remaining from World War II.
She has now deployed to the Middle East with a team that includes 17 Australian sailors, an Australian Army soldier, a Defence civilian, an Australian Federal Police officer and seven Royal Canadian Navy sailors for the five-month operation.
AB Wright said her main role in Bahrain was as a computer network manager, which required her to facilitate her team's access to the separate Australian local area network.
"It will be hard work to set up the network at first, but then I will be able to be involved in other aspects of the mission," she said.
"The plan is for me to do shifts as a Battle Watch Assistant in the CTF 150 Operations Room."
Also assigned to CTF 150 is the Australian warship HMAS Melbourne, which recently boarded and seized 216kg of heroin worth an estimated $AUD 64M from a dhow off the east coast of Africa.
The drug haul is Melbourne's third of her current deployment to the Middle East region, bringing the total weight of heroin she has seized close to 800kg.
AB Wright said she was excited to be a part of the mission.
"People have been asking if I am nervous to be here, but I am not at all, this is a great deployment to be a part of and it is a great team," she said.
"The culture in Bahrain is very different to what I have experienced, as we live in the community near the base, but the food is amazing and the locals are friendly.
"The base for the Naval Support Activity hosts personnel from 30 nations, so it is taking me a while to figure out who to salute."
Nations contributing to CTF 150 include Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Republic of Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States.
AB Wright said mateship was one of the best things about being a sailor.
"I have made friendships I know will last a lifetime and they are the type where we don't have to see each other everyday because they will be there next time we are posted to the same ship or location," she said.
"When I return to Australia next year I will be joining HMAS Anzac and I am looking forward to getting back to sea."