The support to Operation SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN is truly a tri-service undertaking with soldiers from HMAS Perth’s Ship’s Army Detachment (SAD) assisting the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force in the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The Army Reserve detachment primarily drawn from 5/6 battalion, The Royal Victorian Regiment, was serving in Perth while assigned to operations in northern Australian waters and the soldiers readily adapted to the change of task when the ship was re-routed to the search.
One of the embarked soldiers, Lance Corporal Jye Staff, said he saw this as a once-in-lifetime opportunity to support such a massive search.
“This is great, we are doing our bit to help solve one of the world’s greatest mysteries. I am proud to be a part of one of the largest search efforts in history,” Lance Corporal Staff said.
Perth’s role is to respond to suspected wreckage sightings and conduct surface searches. Her radars and missile defence systems are state-of-the-art but one of the most effective methods for detecting flotsam in vast areas of water is by using visual lookouts.
The Army Detachment has augmented the ship’s lookouts and is providing an immediate, disciplined and effective force in the search for clues to the missing aircraft.
Private Michael Cook said that when he joined the Army he did not expect to be conducting a lookout for a missing aircraft on the ocean.
“We search throughout all sorts of terrain as infantry; I must admit I didn’t ever think I would be searching for a downed aircraft out in the middle of the ocean,” he said.
“Discipline and a rotating schedule of lookouts to keep fresh eyes on the task make sure we clear an area before moving forward to the next one.”
Commanding Officer Perth Captain Lee Goddard said he was very impressed with both the attitude and professionalism of the Army detachment.
“The men and women, these soldiers, are great. As our program changed and we moved into another line of operation, the soldiers of the Royal Victorian Regiment just rolled with the changes and readily volunteered to help in any and every capacity they could,” Captain Goddard said.
The unit has easily integrated into the ship’s activities, including taking part in replenishments at sea, and have proved quick learners. The soldiers are even rotating through watches to attain helmsman endorsement so they can ‘drive’ the ship.
Vessels from the United States, United Kingdom, China and Malaysia have also deployed, demonstrating the depth of international co-operation involved in the operation.
Press Release, April 16, 2014; Image: Australian Govt.