The small, peaceful town of Smithton on the North West tip of Tasmanian can feel justifiably proud this Christmas.
The community can be proud of Smithton’s finest exports, Annah Whittaker, 26, Andrew Davis, 28 and Shannon Evans, 30, who are sailors serving in the Navy guided missile frigate, HMAS Melbourne.
Melbourneis on a six-month deployment to the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and the waters around the Horn of Africa, where it is conducting counter terrorism and counter piracy patrols.
The trio said their thoughts this festive season will be with their loved ones back home.
Annah, a graduate of Circular Head Christian School, and Andrew and Shannon, both graduates of Smithton High School, left Australia in August but are due home in March next year.
They said that being at sea over the Christmas and New Year period was harder emotionally than any other time, because they would be thinking about their family and friends back home.
Andrew said “the satisfaction and rewards of serving the nation far outweigh the challenges and disappointment of being away at Christmas.”
“The time away makes you cherish the things that really count, like our family and the security of home,” he said.
“I can’t wait to get home when I will spend time with my daughter and fiancé”.
A lover of cricket and Aussie Rules footy, Andrew joined in 2004 and is now a Leading Seaman Marine Technician – Electrical. He maintains the electrical sub-systems that provide the ship’s propulsion.
Annah said it has been a treat to have Shannon and Andrew onboard, especially over the festive period when she is missing her loved ones back home.
“They are two special friends who help me relate to life back home in Smithton,” she said.
Annah joined the Navy in 2006 and is now a Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics – Steward, who assists with the coordination of dining and living-in facilities to more than 30 officers aboard Melbourne.
Shannon has served the longest, joining at the age of 17 in September 2000.
“I grew up in a very Navy orientated family, so it sounded like an exciting way to start out my working life,” she said.
Now a Petty Officer, Shannon is Melbourne’s electronic warfare manager.
She started the year with the challenge of integrating her new staff into a team, following a 100 per cent crew change.
“It was very challenging at the start because all the new personnel in the EW department had never done their specialist roles at sea before,” she said.
The trio will have interesting stories to tell their loved ones when they return home in 2014.
On October 15 Melbourne intercepted nine suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia, after reports of two alleged acts of piracy against separate merchant vessels.
All three sailors played a role in their respective areas and agreed the successful interception will be a career highlight for many years to come.
Also in October, Annah received a Commanding Officer’s commendation for her role coordinating the ship’s participation in the annual Ocsober challenge which raised $18,372 for Life Education.
Melbourne and her Ship’s Company of 230 officers and sailors are the 56th rotation of a Royal Australian Navy warship to the Middle East since the first Gulf War in 1990, and the 32nd ship to deploy to the Middle East since September 2001.