Tonight is the Aussie Heroes Christmas Dinner. One of our guests, Commander Terry Morrison, is the Captain of HMAS Darwin, our most recently deployed ship. Terry has agreed to say a few words about the impact Aussie Heroes had on his crew during their deployment. He has been kind enough to provide me with a written version so that I can post this in time for those of you who cannot attend tonight so that you can read it around the same time as we are hearing it.
My name is Terry Morrison and I am the CO of HMAS Darwin, which deployed to the Middle East Area of Operations for 7 months between Jan to Aug this year. This deployment is larger than the average, which was a result of the rotation cycle and ship availabilities. Being such a long period, I was acutely aware of the need to maintain morale and look for ways to entertain the crew.
I joined Darwin in August 2013, a month prior to the International Fleet Review, which was a spectacular event that Darwin was very involved in. Leading up to the IFR, Darwin worked very hard to complete a maintenance period which was extended due to growth in defects and therefore the crew were very tired, frustrated and stressed getting back to sea for the IFR and Work Ups. The IFR however, was a fantastic event that the vast majority of the ship’s company were able to experience and being one of ‘the magnificent seven’, second in line in the main column of seven ships representing the original ‘First Navy Fleet’ and being one of the firework ships, was a great opportunity. In addition to enjoying the experience myself, I often stood back and observed the effect this had on the crew and I noticed that it was like a huge ‘injection of motivation’, bringing direct realisation to the crew of how our Nation appreciates the military and the reason why Australia needs a Navy. This had an effect similar to a bank, topping up the motivation savings, something that my command team could draw on later during our Work Up, which was obviously difficult and stressful.
Between our Work Up and deploying, I heard about Aussie Hero Quilts through one of my hardest working and most effective supporters – My wife Maridy. Maridy is the type of lady that befriends every one everywhere, whether it be the butcher, the lolly maker or the green grocer. This time it was the Post Office workers at Cherrybrook shops, which happens to be the post office that Jan-Maree uses. Maridy noticed a picture of deployed ADF personnel with quilts held up and asked the Post Office workers about it. They told Maridy about Jan-Maree and then Maridy, noting how good this opportunity would be for me, contacted Jan-Maree and scheduled a time for me to meet up with her.
When Maridy informed me of this meeting in one of my last valuable days over the pre-deployment leave period, I was a little apprehensive. Maridy told me that …a lady who lives down the road makes quilts for ADF personnel on operations and she would like to meet me. I remember thinking about this and saying to myself that I was deploying to one of the hottest places on earth. My thought process at the time was similar to…’Quilts?’, ‘Who would want Quilts?’, ‘How many Quilts could this lady make?’, ‘Is this meeting going to be a waste of time?’
However, luckily I followed Maridy’s advice and met Jan-Maree for coffee and to talk about what she is about. When we met, Jan-Maree whipped out her Ipad and started to show me hundreds of photos of quilts made by generous and devoted and proud Australia’s who support their ADF and I realised that I needed to grab this one with both hands. I thought this was too good to be true, however even then I underestimated the effect this would have on the crew.
I know everyone assembled here tonight, understands that the ADF asks so much from our people. We ask them to deploy for very long periods, often on multiple occasions and we ask them to fight a very hardened and deceptive enemy in very arduous conditions. This work involves mind numbing and repetitive tasks and therefore one very important role of Command is to look for ways to keep the crew motivated, stimulated and alert. There are several ways to do this, however one of the most important is through communication to Australia, especially internet and email connectivity and of course mail from home.
At sea our patrols are regularly in excess of a month and therefore most of our mail arrives through a replenishment ship, usually underslung a helicopter bouncing between the decks, transferring everything from toilet paper to ‘fresh’ fruit and vegetables. These evolutions are labour intensive, involve many ‘ants’ working together to refuel and restore the ship. It does not take long however until the mail is sorted and distributed and after this occurs, like electricity you can feel the lift in motivation and morale. Now it is one thing receiving a care package from a loved one or family member back home, however it is quite something else to receive a personally designed quilt or laundry bag, reflecting your interests, from someone who you have only just made contact with. When we started to receive the Aussie Hero Quilts, I saw quilts and laundry bags being proudly shown off all around the ship, in workspaces, in the café, in the operations room, the bridge and even the engine room. This had the effect of another motivation injection and more motivation deposited in that bank, similar to the one that I observed during the IFR, however this one was much more enduring in the physical presence of a laundry bag or quilt and of course the many relationships between my crew and the very generous Quilters across Australia. As a Commanding Officer, I also noted that this resulted in an enhancement of our operational effectiveness, which was seen through multiple narcotics seizures resulting in excess of 12 tonnes of narcotics and a street value totally over $2 Billion, being seized. This was due to the crews ability to conduct very long boardings, usually in excess of 10 hours, however up to 22 hours on one occasion and resulted in a totally determined and meticulous search. Every Quilter can be assured that their efforts and generosity contributed to Darwin’s operational success and most importantly to the interception of funds that were headed to terrorists around the world. Our world is a safer place due to them enjoying their hobby of making a quilt or laundry bag and their generosity of time and costs to this very worthy cause.
We also received a message from the Chaplain of HMAS Toowoomba. HMAS Toowoomba is still on deployment but with only a couple of weeks left to go I am pleased to say they will be home in time for Christmas.
How does one possibly describe the affect that Aussie Hero Quilts has on a ship deployed to the Middle East Region. I have often thought that it would be great if there could be some kind of morale monitor that captured those moments when people felt valued and appreciated for their efforts. There is a book out called “Have you filled a bucket today” and it is all about taking those opportunities to speak words of encouragement or to do acts of service for people. You fill other peoples buckets and then in return your bucket is filled. Its a lovely book with a great message. Aussie Hero Quilts must have a bucket that is overflowing. The number of times that I met sailors and officers, following a mail drop, that had just received a quilt or a laundry bag is beyond belief. I have been invited into messes and cabins on a regular basis to see the fine handiwork of your quilters. They all are overjoyed and touched by the amount of effort and skill and most importantly time that has gone into their gift. On one occasion a sailor sought me out to come and see his quilt and said to me ‘it has everything that I asked for on it and I will never put it on a bed, my wife is going to love it and we are going to hang in a prominent place in the house’ and then he said, and I have heard this often from others ‘ this is the best part of this entire deployment – it makes it all worth it.’
One other thing that I would like to mention, regarding the laundry bags. Every morning I get up at 0400 and about every second or third day I proceed directly to the laundry to put my laundry or dhoby as we say in the Navy in. Outside the laundry there is a large square container that almost fills the compartment that has a number of bolts on top of it and along one side a rope has been fashioned with a number of large industrial safety pins. These bolt heads and the pins are used to hang dhoby bags on once they have passed through the laundry. Regularly all the bolts and pins are filled – almost 200 people doing laundry. So when you descend the ladder into that compartment prior to entering the laundry you are confronted with dozens of bags hanging all around this area, sometimes they are on the deck as there is no where left to hang them. After the laundry bags started arriving on the ship, the white fish-net bags started to be replaced with the AHQ bags. Only a few to begin with but as time went on more and more started to show up. Now it is a regular thing to pull someone’s laundry out of the drier, look at the bag and say ‘I know who that is… he likes surfing and Collingwood its …’
Of course their are some who are using their quilts as well but most have boxed them up and are treasuring them for their return. Finally I would like to say a personal thank you to you Jan-Maree for your tenacity of purpose. There is a passion and a fire in you to do this that is rarely seen. It is wonderful and it has made my role onboard so much easier for me. Within a week of joining Toowoomba I had emails from just about everyone onboard requesting a quilt. They would meet me and introduce themselves. I attended every divisional meeting for the first month carrying a quilt reminding people that if they would like to have one made that they would have to email me with the particulars. It provided a reason for me to introduce myself and allowed me to start early creating relationships. As you are likely aware, the role of Chaplain is not often that well understood and in general some believe that you only talk to one when your in trouble or need a ‘crutch to lean on’. Aussie Hero Quilts let me meet people in a different way and made my transition into the ship very smooth.
So again Jan-Maree thank you for all that you and your quilters are doing for us out here. Your making a huge difference and from all of us onboard to all of you there ‘we salute you’ and wish you and your families a safe and merry Christmas.
And finally, although they have not yet received even one quilt or laundry bag, HMAS Success has already welcomed Aussie Heroes. Caroline and I were welcomed by the then Captain, Captain Allison Norris for morning tea and then on the 23rd of November five of us were present as HMAS Success set sail.
The new commanding officer, Captain Justin Jones has also taken the time to write to us in honour of tonight’s dinner.……….
Dear Jan-Maree and Aussie Hero Quilters,
HMAS Success is now a quarter of the way around the world, and more than half-way to our area of operation in the Middle East. We’ve settled into life at sea over the last two-and-a-half weeks, and like you, our thoughts are turning towards Christmas.
I would like to send you all my warmest greetings as you gather for your Christmas Dinner. I know many of you have travelled long distances to celebrate together, and that there are many other quilters and supporters across Australia who will be ‘with you in spirit, if not in person.
To each one of you, I would like to say thank-you for all you do for members of the ADF
serving on operations overseas. Speaking of our own experience with your amazing organisation in Success; you have given us the opportunity to build special links with people and communities with whom our sailors might never otherwise have had contact. You have allowed us to share a little of what we do, who we are, and what we feel- and most importantly, you offer your talents to recognise in a creative and personal way the individual sailor and the sacrifice she or he makes to do their job.
Here are some messages from members ofHMAS Success’ ship’s company:
AB Leo Ransom: I’d like to say thanks a million to all the people making hero quilts
for us. It’s great to know there are people out there who care enough about us to do
AB Ayla Woodbury: Thank you all for your hard work and dedication to such a
wonderful cause. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas.
CPO Bob Black: Thank you Ladies you do a fantastic Job and we greatly appreciate
LS Ben Beck: Ladies, thank you for your contribution to our effort. Every bit of
morale we receive onboard is always warmly welcomed. You’re all doing a great
thing for our deployed Seaman, Troops and Airmen. Keep up the good work. Thank
AB Mathew Tickner: Thanks so much for doing what you do ladies. It’s the small
things that count when you’re out at sea for extended periods. Greatly appreciated!
CMDR Ken Stevenson: Our thoughts are with you on this special day when you
spend time with your families and friends. I hope you all have a wonderful
AB ‘Foss’ Davidian: Thank you lor your effort in providing the crew of HMAS
Success with gifts for our deployment. I’ll remember this generosity for a long time.
LS Alexander Thorp: Thank you so much for the work you do for all of our serving
members keep up the great work.
AB Rory Dow: I would just like to say thank you for all your beautiful work and have
CPO Kathryn Holmes: The quilters who contribute to the Aussie Hero Quilts may
not realise how much their efforts boost morale and give us something to focus on
other than work. I can’t wait to see my quilt. I know friends who have received quilts
on other units have appreciated them so much they have made the quilt a feature in
their homes as a momento of the deployment. They represent the hard work put in by
the quilter and by the sailor who received it. Merry Christmas and Thank You.
SMN Cindy Wolter: Thank you for the lovely gesture and thoughts on this
deployment. Your kin4ness will be treasured for ever. Have a wonderful Xmas and a
So, Aussie Hero Quilters, enjoy your special evening, and have a merry Christmas and a
happy New Year. May Aussie Hero Quilts go from strength to strength as you continue to lift the spirits of our deployed men and women.
With every good wish from all in HMAS Success,
I am sorry that you can’t all be here tonight but I hope this goes some way to reassuring you that you all play an important part in the success that Aussie Heroes has achieved in the last 12 months in particular and in the last three years in total.
I will be taking lots of photos and will publish them next week.
Till then…………………keep spreading the word and happy stitching!
and lots of love from me, Jan-Maree xx