TWO ex-Windsor High students were part of an Australian navy mission responsible for seizing almost 300 kilograms of heroin while patrolling waters in the Arabian Sea in May.
On May 10, the crew aboard the ship seized and disposed of 295 kilograms of heroin valued at about $88.5 million.
Petty Officer Mark Hibbins (31) and Leading Seaman Neil Gough (34) both grew up in the Hawkesbury before joining the Navy Supply Branch.
They were deployed together on HMAS Warramunga, arriving back in Sydney on Sunday, July 8.
The illicit narcotics interdiction was Warramunga’s eleventh seizure in the seven months since deploying to the region in November 2017, and has further disrupted the flow of terrorist funding in the Middle East.
Warramunga’s illicit drug interceptions now total 19.5 tonnes of hashish and almost two tonnes of heroin, valued at approximately $1.56 billion. These regular seizures have helped to disrupt the nexus between criminality and terrorism.
Following the detection of a suspect vessel in the Arabian Sea by Warramunga’s Seahawk Romeo helicopter, a boarding party search uncovered a number of packages containing heroin.
After being transferred to Warramunga, the narcotics were disposed of at sea.
PO Hibbins will stay with the ship on duty for another three weeks, then return home to his family in Darwin. His parents who live in South Windsor were there to meet the ship when it arrived back in Sydney.
The family has a history in defence, with PO Hibbins’ dad and brother both involved with the RAAF.
PO Hibbins said he and LS Gough enjoyed working together, and he encouraged any young Hawkesburians to sign up with defence if they felt it was a career for them.
“Have a go at it - it’s only four years so it’s good for a young person. I’ve had a good time,” he said.
“It’s good money, and you’ve always got mates around. You can see the world - I’ve seen a lot of stuff.”
He said it’s a good stepping-stone for future careers, and he had been given a lot of opportunities from contacts in the military.
“This is my fourth time in the Middle East and I’ve been to a fair few countries there, as well as India, Hawaii, and every port in Australia,” he said.
The Commanding Officer of Warramunga, Commander Dugald Clelland, RAN, said the successful boarding and interdiction has been another boost for the ship’s already high morale.
“To have a successful interdiction on this latest patrol means a lot to the crew and reinforces the importance of our mission here in the Middle East region,” Commander Clelland said.
Warramunga is part of the Operation MANITOU deployment, the Australian Government's contribution to support international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East Region.
Combined Taskforce 150, of which Australia assumed command of in December 2017, is one of three task forces operating under Combined Maritime Forces.