The ship’s company of NUSHIP Canberra recently had the opportunity to hear about amphibious operations from some international officers with first hand experience.
On May 26, Colonel John Mayer of the United States Marine Corps and Colonel Jim Hutton of the Royal Marines delivered a presentation to NUSHIP Canberra on the capabilities and roles required of a modern amphibious ship.
Both colonels are currently posted to the Australian Defence Force, where their knowledge has been drawn upon to increase the Royal Australia Navy’s understanding of amphibious operations.
Colonel Hutton spoke about Operation PALLISER, the British intervention into Sierra Leone in May 2000. He explained the situation, mission and execution of the operation which highlighted the flexibility modern amphibious forces require.
Significant challenges were faced; for example Royal Navy personnel were tasked to guard the headquarters in Freetown, requiring selected personnel to receive additional training from their Royal Marine Commandos during the ten day transit from Marseilles, France.
Colonel Hutton said there was also the problem of the 100 year old charts which provided no detail on water depth or safety of critical waterways. The British troops were required to do some quick thinking and a landing craft surveyed these areas under the cover of darkness and provided command with options.
NUSHIP Canberra sailor, Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Dan Lee said Colonel Hutton’s examples highlighted the value of a flexible ship and crew.
“It left me imagining myself in similar situations and I’m sure the rest of the crew were doing the same,” he said.
Colonel Mayer discussed a United States regional engagement mission in Cambodia that enhanced relations with the locals, provided medical assistance and rebuilt infrastructure in hard to reach locations.
This presentation was in contrast to the military nature of Operation PALLISER, demonstrating an amphibious ship may often be employed for diplomatic and humanitarian missions rather than combat.
Press Release, June 23, 2014; Image: Australian Navy