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Joshua Robins - Terrigal

A Royal Australian Navy sailor from Terrigal, on the central coast of New South Wales, is living his passion while deployed on counter-terrorism patrols with HMAS Darwin.

Leading Seaman (LS) Electronics Technician Joshua Robins is serving on Operation Manitou, which is the ADF's contribution to international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East region.

Darwin's primary goal on Operation Manitou is to contribute to the Combined Maritime Forces, a 31-nation partnership focused on defeating terrorism, preventing piracy, encouraging regional cooperation and promoting a safe maritime environment.

LS Robins is a former Terrigal High School student and now the lead gun-maintainer of Darwin's 76mm naval gun, which is one of the warship's most formidable weapons.

The gun is used in anti-aircraft and anti-surface roles and is capable of firing up to 80 rounds per minute to a range of eight nautical miles.

LS Robins said he also maintained the ship's auxiliary weapons and in his secondary role assisted watches on the main armament, the guided missile launching system.

"This is definitely not a P&O cruise, but I love my job.

"It's fun, it's interesting and it's enjoyable, being a part of a well-oiled team that gets the job done.

"As an added bonus we do get to practice firing the gun, and that's as real as it gets, we use the same procedures we would if we were at war."

LS Robins said both his grandfathers were sailors.

"My mother's father was in the Royal Australian Navy and my father's father was in the Royal Navy," he said.

"The amazing stories they shared inspired me to join from when I was only 13-years-old.

"My parents encouraged me and I also wanted to get a trade in the field of electronics, so I enlisted in 2009, not long after my 18th birthday."

Darwin is mainly tasked to support Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150) which undertakes maritime security patrols to combat terrorism, including the interception of vessels carrying illicit cargoes that help fund international terrorist activities.

CTF 150's area of operations spans more than two million square miles, covering the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman.

LS Robins said at first it did not dawn on him how important the work Navy was doing in the Middle East until he deployed to the Middle East in 2014 on HMAS Darwin as part of Operation Slipper.

"We get lost in it all being about sailing at sea, but when a big drug bust is publicised that stops funds going to terrorist networks, I hear about the reactions at home and it makes us feel appreciated.

"We are proud of the role we play."

From February 23-25 Darwin joined the French Carrier Strike Group Charles de Gaulle to provide escort, force protection support and combined training operations in the Gulf of Oman.

The Charles de Gaulle Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the Gulf to participate in operations against Islamic State militants in Iraq as part of US Naval Forces Central Command's Task Force 50.

LS Robins said the best part of the Navy was the camaraderie.

"The crew onboard Darwin is by far the best," he said.

"It's often the case of people hanging out with other in the same trade, but that's not the case on this ship.

"We are one team on Darwin and we all get along."

LS Robins said the hardest part of being a sailor was being away from his partner Emily and missing his family.

"My secret to maintaining my relationship is honesty, as the fact I will deploy can’t be hidden," he said.

"When I go away for six months I tell Emily I will be away longer, because it is better to surprise her and come home early.

"My parents and some mates still live in Terrigal, and I am lucky I only live about an hour-and-a-half away in Neutral Bay, so I can visit them regularly when I am home.

"I am also trying to interest my younger brothers, Travis, Corey and Darcy, in the Navy, but unfortunately I think they are keen on the Air Force."

During the Australian warship's counter-terrorism mission, she will visit ports such as Manama in Bahrain, Muscat in Oman and Port Victoria in the Seychelles.

Including this rotation, Darwin has deployed to the Middle East seven times between 1990 and 2016 as part of operations Damask, Slipper and Manitou.