Kiwi Sailors Aid In Billion-Dollar Drug Bust

Imagery from HMAS MELBOURNE drug seizures. Credit to the Royal Australian Navy.

Drugs being destroyed over the side of HMAS MELBOURNE. Credit to the Royal Australian Navy.

20 February 2014

The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) quote "A life less ordinary" is certainly true for three RNZN sailors on board Australian Ship HMAS Melbourne who have been instrumental in interception of pirates and the seizure of narcotics off the coast of Somalia, Tanzania and in the Indian Ocean.

Leading Hydrographic Survey Technician (LHST) Samuel Martin and Able Seaman Combat Specialist (ASCS) Samantha Carter and ASCS Leevi Eaton have played vital roles in Melbourne's recent operational successes. The three NZ sailors have been employed in a range of roles but primarily as Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIB) crew, LHST Martin as a Coxswain and Carter and Eaton as Bowman. In this role they have been responsible for the safe insertion and extraction of Melbourne's Boarding Party personnel onto suspicious vessels in what is an area renowned for narcotics smuggling and piracy.

The trio have been deployed onboard HMAS Melbourne for over seven months and have been an integral part of the ship's company. Over the past two weeks they have been key members of the team that have been involved in intercepts, searches and the seizure operations on several vessels resulting in the interception of 543kg of heroin and 1951kgs of hashish off the coast of Tanzania and Oman.

In October last year, they were also involved in the interception and transportation of nine suspected pirates off the Somali Coast.

In this incident HMAS Melbourne had successfully located two suspected pirate vessels and launched her RHIBs to make a final approach. LHST Samuel Martin, from Rotorua, took charge as boat coxswain in one RHIB with ASCS Samantha Carter (Taupo) as his bowman and ASCS Leevi Eaton (Tauranga) was on the second RHIB as bowman.

Leading Seaman Liam Sweeten (Royal Australian Navy) said the three Kiwis followed the plan and executed it well.

"We initially embarked the suspected pirates to HMAS Melbourne and later transferred them back to the Somali Coast,"he said.

"Approaching the Somali Coast, Marto (LHST Martin) was in front of my RHIB and he did a great job providing directions when a large swell formed."

ASCS Carter said the experience was one she won't forget in a hurry.

"It is something to tell family and friends back home and make everyone jealous."

"The best part was being involved in an operation that's actually happening, not just something we hear about or something we train for, but something happening real time," she said.

Their professionalism and flawless actions made the New Zealand sailors a valued part of the ship's company as commented on by the Commanding Officer of HMAS Melbourne, Commander Brian Schlegel.

"They have been with us since the start of pre-deployment work ups and in that time they have integrated to become part of a professional and effective team," he said.

On the 16th of February in Muscat LSHT Martin, ASCS Carter and Eaton received their operational medals on parade on board HMAS Melbourne presented by Commodore Phillip Spedding, Deputy Commander Joint Task Force 633 (CJTF633). LHST Samuel Martin was also the recipient of the CJTF633 Bronze Commendation (ADF Bronze Commendation) for his exceptional performance as a RHIB Coxswain throughout the deployment, and in particular for his performance during the piracy boarding and delivery to Somalia.


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This page was last reviewed on 6 August 2014.