HMAS Choules has successfully completed its second evacuation operation from Mallacoota, Victoria, as Defence continues to provide support to communities ravaged by bushfires.
A day after returning to the fire-ravaged area, Choules evacuated 280 more people, including 66 Country Fire Authority (CFA) firefighters.
Choules’ Personnel Officer, Chief Petty Officer Maritime Logistics – Personnel Heath Jones, oversaw the registration and co-ordination of both evacuation operations from Mallacoota to the ship.
CPO Jones said, “The first evacuation saw all the people who initially wanted to leave being embarked, but a number of people stayed behind in Mallacoota to offer assistance.
“Many sent other family members on the first opportunity, and over the coming days it became clear the immediate crisis was over, but evacuation by road would not be possible for some time.
“When we offered the second opportunity on our return, most visitors and some residents took it up, and we were also pleased to be able to assist the CFA volunteers in getting home at the end of their deployment.”
Choules’ Commanding Officer, Commander Scott Houlihan, said that this type of deployment reflects the flexibility and capability provided by the Australian Navy’s amphibious capability.
“HMA Ships Canberra, Adelaide and Choules together comprise a world-leading amphibious capability,” CMDR Houlihan added.
“This is the most significant evacuation of civilians I have experienced in almost 30 years in the Navy, and it is certainly the most rewarding activity I have been involved in. The ability to help a mate out is its own reward, but the response from our evacuees and the authorities in Mallacoota and beyond has been overwhelming.”
The Royal Australian Navy currently uses the Bay Class LSD.
The Bay Class are based on the Royal Schelde Enforcer design. It has a large flight deck aft that can accommodate two Chinook helicopters and a docking well in the stern capable of operating a LCM-8 or two LCVP landing craft.
The military lift includes the capacity to load and transport up to 32 Abrams tanks, or 150 light trucks. They can carry a normal load of 356 troops, or overloaded with 700. They are designed to operate over the horizon using helicopters and landing craft, to get men and equipment ashore.
The Bay Class is operated by the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary to provide the UK with a significantly enhanced amphibious capability.
The ex-Royal Fleet Auxilliary landing ship dock Largs Bay was commissioned into the RAN as HMAS Choules and it entered service with the RAN in early 2012.