Excited family members welcomed home the crew of the Australian Warship HMAS Stuart today as she returned to Sydney after a successful six-month mission in the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO).
The Anzac Class Frigate was also met on the wharf by Defence Minister Stephen Smith, New South Wales Governor Professor Marie Bashir, and other Federal, State and Local Government officials, as she berthed alongside at Garden Island.
The crew of the vessel, which is affectionately known as the Tartan Terror, presented loved ones with red roses as they were reunited on the wharf.
Stuart set sail for the MEAO in December to play a vital role in Operation Slipper: Australia’s military contribution to the international counter terrorism campaign in the Middle East, and counter piracy activities in the Gulf of Aden.
Her 191 crew members served with distinction during the deployment which featured 300 vessel queries, more than 19 boardings, and a search and rescue operation.
The Fast Helicopter Frigate (FFH) also rendered assistance to several vessels that needed medical and mechanical assistance.
Her most notable achievements included rescuing three Yemeni fishermen held hostage by Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa; and disabling an unoccupied pirate skiff by live fire using her 12.7mm Mini-Typhoon.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith praised the crew’s dedication to the mission.
“These operations are very important in maintaining and developing maritime security and stability and prosperity in the Middle East area.’
‘Stuart and her crew lived up to the ships motto ‘Always Prepared’ and lived up to her core values of readiness and vigilance,” he said.
Over the course of the 184 day deployment Stuart travelled 70,000 kilometres, and her embarked helicopter completed over 113 sorties, amassing more than 330 hours in the air.
The ships company exchanged more than 4,000kg of mail to keep in touch with friends and family back home in Australia.
They also raised $11,000 for the Queensland Flood Appeal and $3,000 for the Red Kite Children’s Charity through auctions, donations, and fund-raising events held onboard.
The Royal Australian Navy’s Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Steve Gilmore thanked the families of the ships company for their sacrifice.
“Our men and women cannot deploy without the support of their families and friends.’
‘I know from personal experience the challenges and difficulties in seeing loved ones deploy to a tense and sometimes hostile environment. Your sacrifices are not forgotten,” he said.
The West Australian based frigate HMAS Toowoomba departed Australia for the MEAO in May to take over Operation Slipper duties and enable Stuart to return home.
Stuart’s return to Sydney marks the end of the twenty-fifth rotation of Royal Australian Navy ships to the Middle East since September 2001.