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DIGGERS Jake Binns, James
Roberts, Euan Purves and James
Fenton are among the latest group
of soldiers who have swapped field
packs for life jackets.
They have gone to sea with the
Navy's Armidale-class patrol boat fleet
on border protection duties off the
north-west coast of Australia.
The soldiers are members of
A Coy, 8/9RAR, serving as Transit
Security Element 57 (TSE 57) until
Members of the company are
spread throughout the fleet to supple-
ment Navy crews in performing secu-
rity duties on suspected illegal entry
vessels as part of Operation Resolute.
They also provide a security func-
tion on the patrol boats whenever pas-
sengers are brought on board.
As they sailed out of Darwin
aboard HMAS Broome, the four sol-
diers looked to the horizon wondering
what to expect.
"It's my first time at sea so I'm
hoping not to get sea sick," Pte Purves
said. "But so far, so good. I think this
will be a good change from the grunt
stuff out bush."
It was also the first time at sea for
Pte Roberts. He said sleeping under
cover on a mattress and having three
good meals a day on operations was a
"We've had a pretty heavy year in
the field and we've been used to sleep-
Army July 8, 2010
By Capt Joe Nyhan
ing on the backs of our packs," Pte
Roberts said. "Being part of the TSE
is something different and out of the
ordinary for us. But it's good to do
something like this."
HMAS Broome was on its way
to help two other patrol boats and a
Customs ship that had intercepted ves-
sels near Ashmore Island.
The 480 nautical mile (874km)
transit westward would take more than
a day -- time well spent by the TSE
getting used to shipboard life, attend-
ing briefings with the boarding parties
and building rapport with the Navy
By the time they found their sea legs
on day two, the tempo had increased to
include a live-fire pistol practice to get
them used to handling their weapons on
the rolling ocean. This was accompa-
nied by drills to launch and recover the
sea boats from the rear deck -- a rough,
rugged, adrenalin-paced experience not
unlike a ride in an amusement park, but
much more serious.
By the middle of the second day
the soldiers felt they were adapting to
life at sea.
"The integration with the crew has
been pretty easy," Pte Fenton said.
"If the TSE looks for things to do
and tries to assist the Navy crew with
routine things, we get accepted as
part of the crew fairly quickly. On my
last patrol I even got to drive the ship
By the evening of the second day,
training was over and it was time to go
to work. HMAS Broome had rendez-
voused with her sister ships Ararat and
Launceston and, in darkness on the
open ocean, took a number of irregu-
lar arrivals on board for the three-day
transit to Christmas Island.
The TSE split into two round-the-
clock watches providing a guard over
the quarterdeck of the patrol boat and
humanitarian assistance to the passen-
gers. Despite facing communication
difficulties with the people under their
care and enduring tropical heat and
rolling seas, the TSE simply got on
with their job without fuss.
Patrol boat crew Assail 1 CO Leut-
Cmdr Mark Sorby said the Army and
Air Force TSEs were providing a use-
ful capability on Op Resolute.
"The transit security element per-
forms a vital service, although it often
doesn't get the glory," Leut-Cmdr
"The Navy boarding parties con-
duct the initial insertion and the TSE is
brought in afterwards to keep boarded
vessels secure and ensure commanders
are able to manage crew fatigue and
have personnel available to keep the
patrol boat running."
He said TSE members had to be
able to rapidly size up a situation
-- and, in this, he was continuously
impressed by them.
"I take my hat off to the TSE mem-
bers. They come from another service
into an unfamiliar environment, often
having to overcome sea sickness.
They participate in all tasks, including
scrubbing decks and cleaning toilets,"
"Every TSE member I've met has
been proud to be a part of my crew
and participate in the things we do as
Right in their element
Really moving: Members of A Coy, 8/9RAR, conduct RHIB training with Assail 2 sailors during an Operation Resolute patrol (above) and, from left,
Ptes James Fenton, Jake Binns, Euan Purves and James Roberts aboard HMAS Broome (inset).
Photos by AB James Whittle
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