A team of nearly 20 Royal Australian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force and Defence civilians supports the coalition maritime effort in the Middle East.

Deployed to Operation Manitou, the team is embedded across three multinational operational forces based at the naval support activity in Bahrain as part of the ADF’s commitment to international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the region.

Forming the Australian Maritime Task Group Middle East region, this dedicated team undertakes high-profile tasking in the Combined Maritime Force, International Maritime Security Construct  and Task Force 52.

Commander of the task group Captain Michael Manfield said the Australian commitment was appreciated by all coalition partners.

“Personnel conduct tasks including current operations, future planning, battle watch, legal, logistics and operational analysis," Captain Manfield said.

“Combined Maritime Force consists of 33 nations providing maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Bab Al Mandeb Strait and Red Sea.” 

These operations deter and deny non-state based, criminal activities at sea, assure merchant industry and the international community and provide support to UN Security Council resolutions.

The eight-nation security construct maintains freedom of navigation, international law and free flow of commerce, focusing on the Straits of Hormuz and Bab Al Mandeb Strait.

“This is a relatively new construct and Australian staff have played a fundamental part in building its foundation and make it a success,” Captain Manfield said.

Task Force 52 is the United States-led, United Kingdom-supported mine counter-measures operation in the region, regularly exercising and preparing to counter any malign activity that may impact on the free flow of commerce.

“Working within a coalition environment is fundamental to our ability to achieve maritime safety and security over the distances and isolation of the world’s seas and oceans,” Captain Manfield said.

“No one country can counter malign and criminal activity on a regional or global scale, so coalition operations which develop mutually supportive strategies, optimise the sharing of information and coordinate the conduct of activities will succeed.”

During deployment, personnel have the opportunity to develop their understanding of regional complexities, participate in multinational operations and gain significant cultural experience working alongside personnel from Albania to Yemen and about 35 other countries.

“I have a huge amount of respect for the discipline shown by our coalition partners, especially our Muslim brothers and sisters who still conduct their duties during a summer Ramadan,” Captain Manfield said.

Logistics officer Lieutenant Tom Rodgers said maritime operations had been made challenging by COVID-19, impacting on a number of airport and seaport access restrictions.

“COVID-19 made support to HMAS Toowoomba during her time in theatre very interesting,” Lieutenant Rodgers said.

“It made the ability for crew to take leave and tour local ports impossible.

“The team did an incredible job during this period and Toowoomba’s professionalism and resilience was exemplary.”