For many sailors, memories of a deployment are based on the ports you stepped off at and the food on board.
In 2020, HMAS Sirius left Australia on a Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) deployment, but there was no going ashore because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without a senior sailor or victualler, chef Leading Seaman Tenielle Walter and her two able seaman set sail for 120 days, with 480 meals to prepare for the crew during the time away.
“It was a challenge, especially when I lost one of my able seaman [because of a posting] and there was only the two of us left in the galley,” Leading Seaman Walter said.
“It was several weeks before we were able to get an operational relief to fill the position.”
As a mother of two, Leading Seaman Walter is used to criticism from her kids, who prefer chicken nuggets and chips most nights.
Working on a six-week cyclic menu during RIMPAC, Leading Seaman Walter adapted recipes to keep things fresh for her 80 critics on board.
“I have learnt when it comes to victualling overseas, you never know what supplies you are going to get,” she said.
“I enjoy cooking for a smaller crew, like on Sirius, as you can be more inventive with the menus.
“At first, there was a lot of interest in curries, and then there was a change to a more meat and vegetable diet.”
Her efforts on that deployment led to her being awarded a Conspicuous Service Medal in this year’s Australia Day honours.
The citation noted her performance was tested under “unique and difficult” circumstances, with personnel shortages and a dynamic program.
Leading Seaman Walter said she was shocked to receive the award.
“I don’t know who nominated me for the award,” she said.
“It feels good to know people appreciate what you have done – many can go their whole career without being recognised.”