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Makinlee Clarke - Kempsey

With a passion for firearms, big or small, it is not surprising to find Kempsey girl Able Seaman (AB) Boatswains Mate Makinlee Clarke is a weapons specialist aboard HMAS Melbourne.

The Melville High School student, who once played soccer for the Kempsey Rangers, became the first member of her family to join the Australian Defence Force when she enlisted in 2014.

AB Clarke joined the Navy because she wanted to travel the world and do something significant with her life.

She is qualified on the most of Defence's machineguns including her favourite, the calibre .50 inch heavy machine gun, as well as smaller weapons such as the F88 Steyr assault rifle, Remington shotgun and 9mm Browning pistol.

Melbourne is currently patrolling the Middle East region as part of Operation Manitou, Australia's contribution to the multinational Combined Maritime Forces (CMF).

Melbourne's main task is to intercept vessels smuggling illegal narcotics, which are a key funding source for international terrorism.

AB Clarke, who is on her first operational deployment, said her responsibilities include providing force protection for the boarding parties conducting searches of suspect vessels.

"It is an exciting job and gets my adrenalin pumping," she said.

"Every day at sea is different and I am proud to be on Operation Manitou.

A recent highlight for AB Clarke occurred during Melbourne's first patrol for the deployment when they discovered 427 kilograms of heroin hidden aboard a fishing dhow.

The drug seizure was valued at close to $127 million AUD and it was brought aboard Melbourne for identification and disposal.

AB Clarke's deployment to the Middle East is adding to her list of foreign countries visited, allowing her to fulfil her dream of adventure as she had never travelled to other countries before joining Navy.

She is also travelling in good company.

"One of the best things about being aboard Melbourne is the friends I have made," she said.

"We face different challenges every day, but these only make us closer.

"We are often running on a high tempo, but we adjust."

AB Clarke said while the action was enjoyable, the opportunity for some personal time while in port was also appreciated.

"I like to relax by reading books in my spare time or I go to the gym, as fitness is an important part of being a sailor," she said.

"I miss my family and friends in Kempsey as well as my pets, so I always look forward to going home.

"Everyone gets excited when they find out I am coming."

Melbourne is on her eighth deployment to the MER and is on the 61st rotation of a RAN vessel in the region since the first Gulf War in 1991.