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A MUSICAL VOYAGE - Royal Australian Navy

A MUSICAL VOYAGE - Royal Australian Navy

- 116 – I received an

- 116 – I received an invitation from the Forces Advisory Committee on Entertainment (in mid November) to send an element of the band to the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) during Christmas and the New Year to support Australian and Coalition forces deployed in the Gulf. I had the privilege to take sixteen very good people and talented musicians on a deployment that demonstrated the calibre of our people and the flexibility and effectiveness of our organisation. We joined with an Australian Legend of Rock n Roll, Angry Anderson, and a Canberra based rock group called ‘Kintama’ to form Tour De Force MEAO 1. Articles in this edition from some of the members give more detail; however, there can be no doubt about how our people and our organisation were received. This was an outstanding result and a testament to the quality of our people and our strength as an organisation. Eighteen months ago I inherited an organisation that was respected and had a strong history. It was in good shape but in need of some reform; particularly, as its budget had diminished significantly over 12 consecutive years (and it was clear that this trend would continue). Vacancy and exit rates were high, sea deployments had all but ceased, PR material did not exist nor did a branch newsletter. Only one CD had been released since 1992. Almost none of our people had the prerequisite training for sea and our reserves received little funding support from the band’s financial allocation. From a starting point of one, we now have 21 people entitled to wear the Australian Active Service Medal. We have supported six Major Fleet Units with thirty nine musicians and most of our people are now fully qualified for sea. Including the recent deployment to the MEAO, 56 musicians have deployed overseas. All of our permanent positions are full and significant progress has been made in meeting shortfalls in our reserve detachments. The reserves are now receiving a greater share of the financial allocation and are travelling outside of their metropolitan areas. We have produced and released four CDs and PR material. We have also conducted numerous benchmark activities; that is, tasks of national importance funded and resourced to achieve nation best standards. Other opportunities are planned including embarking eight musicians for a deployment to North East Asia in April (yet to be agreed) and 15 musicians will be visiting Anzac Cove this coming ANZAC day. Also, a Review of our training needs (a key recommendation in the July 2002 Category Plan) has commenced along with an external review on our future funding needs. These are significant achievements. Thank you for your contribution towards ensuring we remain ‘one of Australia’s premier military ensembles’. TOUR DE FORCE IN THE MIDDLE EAST Article by Able Seaman Shannon Rankine After a week of intense rehearsals, sorting out our program and having many a BBQ (I can tell you now if we have to have one more BBQ!), we packed our bags, said goodbye to our loved ones and began a journey like none other. As a group we were about to embark on the journey of a lifetime and it is this journey that will bond us together with some of the most incredible memories. We met at Kingsford Smith International Airport on Saturday 20 December 2003; I don’t think it actually hit home for many of us as to where we were about to go as we had been so incredibly busy with work. We had 17 hours to relax and enjoy the creature comforts of our flight, but first we began with some food and drink in the New Zealand Air Lounge whilst we waited for our friends from Kintama (a civilian rock group), Angry Anderson, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Reynolds and our mover Perryn Smidt to arrive. Once in the air we settled into the flight, the televisions came out and Grant promptly checked the heads to see if Gulf Air compare to the standards of Singapore Airlines—they didn’t with the deciding factor being no cologne or flowers! Over the next 17 hours we ate like we had never eaten before with meal after meal—three breakfast meals during the flight was a little too much. Most of the group caught up on much needed sleep, so the trip over was relatively quite. Just before arriving in Singapore we received the first breakfast meal. Royal Australian Navy Band: A Musical Voyage

- 117 – Singapore was a stop for refuelling. It was the 21 st of December and Carl’s 21 st Birthday; the crew sang Happy Birthday and promise Carl a bottle of Champaign, which he never sets eyes on!! We then flew onto Bahrain International at 0300 and shortly after take off were given another breakfast. We landed in Bahrain to a very different landscape; lots of sand, flat plains and concrete buildings. We rushed through the airport (quite a way), through the detectors and into a very large woman who, because I beeped, gave me a very thorough pat down—and I wasn’t going to argue! We finally got through customs then back onto another shuttle bus, which drove us all the way back to where we started—our connecting flight was right next to the plane we got off! The flight to Kuwait was only an hour long and you guessed it, another breakfast! We were met at the Airport by some officers who led us through customs. Once we had our bags we boarded a small convoy including at the head one Suburban, our coach and another Suburban. All personnel in the escort vehicles were armed and we wore Combat Body Armour (CBA); the reality of how dangerous this tour was began to set in. The trip to Camp Doha was an eye opener. Every couple of kilometres we passed tankers and Humvee’s with 50 cal weapons and all US military personnel had weapons. Camp Doha is a huge American military base with a very small Aussie contingent. After being shown our accommodation and enjoying lunch in the “chow hall” we settled in for an afternoon and evening of briefings that was broken up by weapons training. The main lesson was on ‘force protection’ something us Aussie’s take very seriously. Rules of Engagement were covered and we were told about some of the threats including Improvised Explosive Device’s. All of us enjoyed a decent night’s sleep and were ready to tackle the next day feeling a little more human. Over the next few days we all successfully passed our weapons trade test (which was a mandatory requirement for our leg into Iraq), and were issued and fitted with CBA, patrol webbing, a weapon and ammunition. We also conducted our first concert, which was a resounding success. We had all of the Aussie’s up and dancing and we could tell the Yanks were enjoying the show as well although their body language was far less flamboyant. After the first concert, a three hour extravaganza, we were all pretty tired. After the gig we packed down and moved all the gear to the warehouse where it needed to be re-packed onto the pallets ready for our early start in the morning. Our pack down finished at midnight and the start time was for 0530. The PX store here was amazing and had an adjoining food court with Baskin ‘n’ Robbins, Subway, Pizza Hut and Starbucks to name a few. Not what we typified with a ‘war like’ situation but something we were to quickly become accustomed to. An early start as we head off to Camp Victory and it was hilarious just getting to the flight. This was the first time we needed all our CBA and webbing and didn’t we all look like the real deal. Grant had his little GI Joe figurine from his children and he looked an exact replica of the GI Joe, so much so that it became known as GI G!!! The CBA, webbing and our weapon weighed about 30kg and after a couple of hours wearing it you somehow don’t feel like the GI G you did earlier. Our flight into Baghdad International Airport was interesting to say the least, however as was to become the norm Kirstin and I slept through pretty much every plane trip. The weather in Baghdad was extremely cool and at night time it got down to about zero degrees, just the right kind of weather to be doing pickets throughout the night. On our second night we were re-joined, as a full concert group, after a smaller group went into Baghdad and a few other locations to perform to our troops. The concert was held at Aussie Island in Camp Victory and although the weather was freezing our fans were up dancing and nothing was going to stop them from enjoying themselves. A few of us went to bed quite hungry as food had become a rarity and sometimes hard to get; the ‘chow hall’ was over a kilometre from Aussie Island and most of us couldn’t be bothered with the long walk in CBA and weapon. We’ve gotten used to the Rat Packs the US Army provided, with the out of date M ’n’ M’s! Royal Australian Navy Band: A Musical Voyage

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