Able Seaman Matthew Bruce, of Nelson Bay, aboard HMAS Newcastle on Operation Manitou in Middle East

ON DUTY: Able Seaman Matthew Bruce, of Nelson Bay, stands in the naval stores compartment of HMAS Newcastle while on Operation Manitou in the Middle East region. Picture: Nicolas Gonzalez
ON DUTY: Able Seaman Matthew Bruce, of Nelson Bay, stands in the naval stores compartment of HMAS Newcastle while on Operation Manitou in the Middle East region. Picture: Nicolas Gonzalez

Diving off of Broughton Island seems like a distant memory to Able Seaman (AS) Matthew Bruce, who is currently sailing the waters of the Middle East.

The former Nelson Bay resident is a part of the HMAS Newcastle ship’s company, which is currently deployed to the Middle East as part of Operation Manitou.

While AS Bruce’s main role is requisitioning and providing maritime logistical support to the various departments aboard HMAS Newcastle, he also has extra duties while deployed.

“Alongside my duties in the Maritime Logistics Department, I’m also a member of the ship’s boarding party,” he said.

“In that role, we provide assistance and protection to merchantmen within our area of operations, as well as boarding vessels to conduct search and seizures of illicit cargo.

“Being a part of the ship’s boarding party is an extremely rewarding job.

“We directly affect the flow of illegal cargo in the region, and provide protection for cargo heading to all corners of the globe.”

Operation Manitou is the Australian Defence Force’s contribution in international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East region.

The primary goal of Operation Manitou is to contribute to the US-led Combined Maritime Forces, which is a 31-nation partnership focused on defeating terrorism, preventing piracy, encouraging regional cooperation and promoting a safe maritime environment.

Although this is his first deployment to Operation Manitou, AS Bruce said he was looking forward to immersing himself in the various cultures of the Middle East region during port visits.

“I think being able to visit unique areas of the Middle East, and explore the cultures which reside there will be one of the best parts of this deployment,” he said.

“I don’t think it will beat diving out at Broughton Island and crabbing for blue swimmers, or four-wheel-driving at Birubi Beach, but it will still be a great experience.

“When I get back home, I’m looking forward to relaxing on Dutchies Beach, fishing with my dad and brother, and going diving again.”

HMAS Newcastle returns to her home port at Fleet Base East, in Sydney, in December.

HMAS Newcastle’s deployment marks the 65th rotation of a Royal Australian Navy vessel to the Middle East region since 1990.