Between the dates of the 3rd and 16th May. I was fortunate to be selected for the TASMAN EXCHANGE Scheme and have the opportunity to travel to Australia to participate in Exercise GOANNA alongside our Australian Maritime Trade Operations (AUS MTO) colleagues based in Townsville, Brisbane, Sydney, Hobart and Fremantle. I spent the first 3 days in Canberra at Border Protection Command (BPC) where I was able familiarise myself with how the National MTO Operations Desk interacts and fits in with the rest of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). My host LTCDR Linden shared his extensive knowledge and experience with me, giving me a great understanding and appreciation of the complex and dynamic challenges and responsibilities his team faces in varying situations to support the ADF’s outputs. Whilst also in Canberra, I was honoured to visit and pay my respects at the Australian National War Memorial. This visit gave me a real insight and understanding into our two nations shared histories and a physical reminder of the sacrifice of many which built our strong ANZAC relationship we have today.
Following my time in Canberra, I was flown to Sydney to join up with MTO DET 3 SYD Team Leader, LT Shannon. LT Shannon through his civilian work as Deputy Harbour Master was a wealth of information regarding the vast amount of requirements and perfect timings needed for a port to operate. From the careful management and guidance from the expert Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) Team, or the long list of responsibilities of Port Authority NSW, I learnt of many previously unknown requirements to me that can be ‘do or die’ when it comes to the movement and berthing of merchant vessels.
The second week of my time in Sydney was spent at HMAS Kuttabul, Fleet Base East. With grey ships everywhere and a hearty walk to where we would be operating, I was able to get a glimpse of the constant and busy workings within the naval base.
Ex GOANNA is an annual MTO collective training programme with the intention to maintain and enhance core Primary Qualification skills including Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping and Maritime Industry Engagement, also ensuring that MTO members are able to effectively contribute MTO effects to any military operation or exercise. We responded to scenarios ranging from national unrest on a fictitious western Pacific island to providing specialist MTO support to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief with Australia.
I cannot speak highly enough of the warm welcome and hospitality shown to me by our Australian colleagues. This opportunity has enabled me to greatly develop within my role as a sailor in the RNZN reserve and to bring new skills and ideas to benefit NZ MTO and our contribution to the NZDF. I look forward to further opportunities in the future for AUS MTO and NZ MTO to once more work together again, and further grow our deep ANZAC bond.
OMTO Alex Bull