The chances of three sailors from the same town serving on the same Navy frigate at the same time are almost as remote as the town they originate from.

Leading Seaman Combat System Operator Julia Upton, Able Seaman Combat System Operator Chloe Freebairn and Able Seaman Maritime Logistics Chef Alana Yeates come from Northam, a picturesque inland town in the Avon Valley, Western Australia.

The Northam trio are deployed on HMAS Ballarat which is participating in Exercise Malabar, a training exercise to enhance Australia’s maritime capabilities and build interoperability.  

Leading Seaman Upton said sibling rivalry was the main reason she joined Navy.

“My mother threatened to send my brother to the Army if he didn’t pick up his grades,” Leading Seaman Upton said.

“The competitive sibling spirit led my brother and I to consider Navy as a career choice. 

“Our timing was spot-on because we both went through the enlistment process and recruit school together.”

Her role is to implement the tactical employment of fixed wing aircraft flown by the Royal Australian Air Force or our Coalition partners and the ship’s embarked MH-60R helicopter.  

“I relay tactical information to and from the aircraft which provides navigational and emergency assistance to aircraft, and also informs aircraft movement to other aircraft,” Leading Seaman Upton said. 

Able Seaman Freebairn’s passion for travel resulted in her enlisting as a Navy gap year sailor in 2017, where she worked across all departments while posted to HMAS Stirling before completing sea time on HMA Ships Choules and Gascoyne. 

“My job in Ballarat is to maintain the surface picture and use sonar to find and track submarines,” Able Seaman Freebairn said.

“I enjoy participating in joint exercises and look forward to working with other nations.” 

Able Seaman Yeates attended Northam Senior High School, where she met the other two Ballarat sailors.

“I was interested in a Navy career after looking for a job that would allow me to travel, keep active, gain qualifications and a job that was interesting,” Able Seaman Yeates said.

She completed a Certificate 3 in commercial cookery and works in a dynamic team environment, planning, providing and preparing meals.

Able Seaman Yeates’ father served in the Australian Army and her grandfather served in the British Army.

Exercise Malabar is a milestone opportunity to enhance Australia’s maritime capabilities and build interoperability with regional partners India, Japan and the United States.  

Participation in the exercise demonstrates Australia’s enduring commitment to the security, stability and prosperity of the region, and increases the capability and interoperability of ADF.