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Keeping the Gulf safe this Christmas

By Roger Moroney

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The crew of the HMNZS Te Mana. Photo/Royal New Zealand Navy.
The crew of the HMNZS Te Mana. Photo/Royal New Zealand Navy.

For 10 Hawke's Bay young people Christmas Day will be celebrated off the coast of Somalia - and could even involve a pirate pursuit rather than a festive dinner.

They are crew members of the frigate HMNZS Te Mana and last week arrived off the African coast for a seven-month deployment as part of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) task force which is involved in counter-piracy operations.

The CMF is a multi-national naval partnership which was set up to promote maritime security and stability in a large area of international waters.

Te Mana's main focus is on counter-piracy in the Gulf of Aden region and the eastern coastline of Somalia which has become notorious for pirate attacks on shipping.

Commanding Officer Shane Arndell said after extensive and rigorous preparations and training off the Australian coast it was good to be getting on with the job.

"Everyone on board is pleased to finally be on task doing the job they have worked so hard to prepare for since leaving home in August," he said.

"We are all looking forward to the challenges in the coming months."

The frigate's versatility and capability had been demonstrated early in its first patrol with the SH-2G Seasprite helicopter carrying out surveillance, the rigid-hull inflatable boats and boarding party busy conducting boarding operations, and personnel on board keeping a watch on activities in its assigned area.

"The Somali fishermen we have encountered have been very happy to see CMF warships in their waters as it makes them feel more secure from piracy attacks," Commander Arndell said.

Several of the Bay members of the crew said while Christmas away from home would not be the same they were pleased to be at sea and on a crucial deployment.

Six of them took time away from their duties to flick a quick festive message home to their families.

Tani Turi, Napier: "Hi to all the whanau. Mum, Dad, Jay, Cole, LJ, Tevita, Jess and Karina - Merry Christmas and Happy New Years. XOXO"

Sean Smith, Hastings: "To all my family, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Love and miss you all xo. Love Sean."

Kirk Milner, "the Mighty Tamatea", Napier: "Big shout out to all the family and bros. The Barracloughs, the Taurimas, the Spooners and last but not least, the Taanas. Thinking of you all, wishing you a very merry Christmas, and a happy New Year.

"Be safe, and will see you round the bend!"

Starsia Tipuna, Napier: "Hey family, hope you all have a safe and fab Christmas. Wish I was there with u all. Miss you, love Star xx

Saul Smith, Napier South: "To all my friends and extended family, Merry Christmas and enjoy the festive season. Hope to see you all next time I'm down in the 'real' Bay!"

Josh Horne, Napier: Merry Christmas and love to my grandmother and all my friends, see you all soon."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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