Minister for Defence Senator David Johnston has congratulated Commander Catherine Hayes, who has become the first female in the Royal Australian Navy to command a warship in the Middle East region.
Commander Hayes and the ship’s company of HMAS Toowoomba recently departed from HMAS Stirling in Western Australia.
Senator Johnston said the ship was being deployed as part of Operation MANITOU to provide maritime support to international efforts to counter and deter terrorism and the trade of narcotics on the seas.
“This is another step in the right direction in providing leadership roles and opportunities for women in the Australian Defence Force,” Senator Johnston said.
“I hope this deployment acts as an inspiration for all women currently serving as well as for young women considering a career in the Navy or in the wider Australian Defence Force.
“Commander Hayes and her crew will be carrying out arduous and often dangerous work supporting counter-piracy and counter narcotics operations in the Middle East.
“The interception of drug trafficking in the region is vital as it is often the case that the profits from trafficking are fed into extremist and terrorist organisations.”
HMAS Toowoomba relieves HMAS Darwin, which is heading home to Sydney after a five month deployment which saw the ship’s company seize narcotics with a total street value of $2.1 billion.
This included the largest seizure of heroin (1,032 kg) in the Combined Maritime Force’s history.