Rhys finds niche on the high seas
Thursday, 30th December, 2010
On New Year’s Eve, Broken Hill will be the usual party city for most locals - but not for Rhys Ryan.
The 23-year-old Navy Lieutenant will already have said goodbye to his parents Rod and Gail, and set sail for a maritime security and counter-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden as part of Operation Slipper.
Rhys and his 190 shipmates aboard HMAS Stuart won’t return to Australia until the middle of next year.
“Growing up I played for West Broken Hill Football Club and worked at Big W. I never really thought about the Navy as a career,” he said.
“The family went on a cruise when I was 15. I thought being on a ship at sea was pretty cool so I looked into the different jobs and that was that.
“I graduated from HMAS Creswell (Royal Australian Naval College) as a Midshipman and for the last five years I’ve worked on patrol boats, frigates and amphibious transport ships.”
On top of his Australian Defence Medal, Rhys has been been awarded the Australian Service Medal for Operation Quickstep where the navy was ready to evacuate foreign nationals from Fiji in the event of a military coup.
“After this trip I’ll be eligible for the Australian Active Service Medal and the Afghanistan campaign medal - real operations are what I joined the Navy for,” he said.
HMAS Stuart is one of eight ANZAC class frigates in the RAN. Its formidable armament includes a five-inch gun, Harpoon antiship missiles, self-defence missiles,torpedoes and a Sea Hawk helicopter for long-range patrol and reporting.
“I’ll be on the bridge as the Officer of the Watch,” said Rhys. “My job involves navigation, collision avoidance and the routine running of the ship. It can be a lot of hard work but also very rewarding. You make everything happen.”
HMAS Stuart will be part of the combined maritime forces working to counter terrorism and piracy.
“It’s strange to think that instead of watching the news, we’ll be part of it,” said Rhys.
After returning to Australia next year Rhys will head home to Broken Hill for some well-deserved leave.