ANZAC spirit comes to the Turkish Navy
In a first for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), two officers were recently embedded as part of the Command Staff for counter-piracy operations aboard the Turkish Navy Flagship, TCG (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Gemisi) Gemlik, in the Middle East Area of Operations.
Lieutenant Commander Al Byrne from HMAS Albatross and Lieutenant Kelli Lunt from Navy Strategic Command joined a staff of 19 personnel from five nations to support the sea-based Turkish-led Command Headquarters for Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151).
With a focus on deterring piracy around the Gulf of Aden, Somali Basin and around the Arabian Sea, the two RAN members worked for the Commander CTF151 Rear Admiral Oguz Karaman of the Turkish Navy, assisting assigned maritime assets to ensure the sea lanes were free from piracy.
For a majority of their mission, CTF151 had experienced substantially lower levels of piracy – due to the effective operations of Coalition forces and independently deployed navies. This deterrent was further enhanced by an increased awareness of merchant vessels that transit the area.
As the Air Operations Officer, Lieutenant Commander Byrne ensures all aircraft assigned to the various Task Forces in the region provide the best possible watch over key areas.
“Our Coalition of nations operates numerous long-range patrol aircraft flying from a number of air-bases throughout the region, as well as a substantial number of ship-borne helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles,” Lieutenant Commander Byrne said.
“We cover the primary trade route between Europe and Asia so there’s lots of ocean to cover and lots of ships to protect.”
Lieutenant Commander Byrne said the experience of working with such a diverse group on such an important mission had been more than he had expected.
In the role of CTF151 Public Affairs Officer, Lieutenant Kelli Lunt said the opportunity to use her skills on an operation as well as adapt to the battle rhythm of a coalition environment had been very rewarding.
“I am working in an environment which allows me to generate ideas, contribute to operational planning and provide timely advice to the Commander,” Lieutenant Lunt said.
“Although I have been deployed to the area before, for this rotation I have been far more involved in engaging with regional nations on the counter-piracy mission.”
TCG Gemlik is a Golf (Perry) Class frigate based out of Marmaris on the south-west coast of Turkey. More than 270 personnel have been embarked on Gemlik and deployed since June in support of counter-piracy operations.
Lieutenant Commander Byrne and Lieutenant Lunt remained on the Gemlik until the Change of Command ceremony in mid-December when Pakistan assumed the role.