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Emily McNeill - Goublburn

A Royal Australian Navy (RAN) sailor from Goulburn, in the southern tablelands of New South Wales, is living her passion while deployed on counter-terrorism patrols with HMAS Darwin.

Able Seaman (AB) Combat Systems Operator Emily McNeill is serving on Operation Manitou, the ADF's contribution to international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East region.

Combat Systems Operators are considered the eyes and ears of the warship and form a vital component of the maritime warfare team.

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.

AB McNeill is a former Trinity Catholic College High School student and said she worked in the operations room onboard Darwin to ensure the fidelity of the above-water tactical picture.

"I'm responsible for establishing an accurate and timely picture of potential threats in the airspace environment surrounding my vessel to maintain our situational awareness," she said.

"One of the highlights of my career was when Darwin represented the RAN at the Indian International Fleet Review in Vishakhapatnam, India.

"It was a mind-blowing experience."

AB McNeill said she was lucky to be a part of the Australian contingent in the ceremonial march for the Indian President and Prime Minister.

"The crowd made us feel like rock stars and the noise of the cheering was off the charts," she said.

"I was asked for so many 'selfie' with sailors from other navies and locals that I think I'm smiled out for the next six months.

"They were so excited to see us there."

AB McNeill is also a member of Darwin's boarding party which is used to intercept possible drugs or weapons smugglers or piracy vessels.

Her role in consists of securing the vessel and deeming it safe for her team by checking for weapons or hazards on the vessel.

Darwin's most successful boarding during Operation Manitou was a weapons haul in late February, 2016.

Almost 2000 AK-47's were seized along with rocket propelled grenades, machine guns and mortars from a dhow off the Oman coast.

AB McNeill said the feeling from the bust was incredible.

"It has to be one of the most important things I have done in my life and naval career," she said.

"I'm proud to be onboard HMAS Darwin for my first Operation Manitou deployment and know we have already made an impact to counter-terrorism operations in the region.

"It's an experience I'll never forget.

"The reason I joined Navy was to serve Australia proudly and know I can make an impact."

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.

AB McNeill said the best part of the Navy was the variety of the job.

"The Navy gives me a chance to have experiences that are hard to get anywhere else." she said.

"We get to see places most people will never see, visit a wide array of countries, experience different cultures and make life-long friends in the process.

"I'm the first member of my family to join the Navy and I know my family was proud and excited at my decision to join.

"I miss them and my boyfriend very much and look forward to seeing them again when Darwin gets back home later this year."

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