HMAS Huon capped off a South West Pacific deployment recently with the final of six port visits to Hobart, Tasmania, and her nearby namesake city of Huonville.
Having already toured the remote Australian territories of Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands, as well as Luganville and Port Vila, Vanuatu
, and as far east as Nelson, New Zealand
, Huon finally made her way to the southern capital for a four-day visit.
Whilst in Hobart, Huon hosted an official reception with dignitaries from the two cities, including a ceremonial sunset with a volley of blank cartridges to wow the guests on the wharf.
Commanding Officer, HMAS Huon, Lieutenant Commander Jason Mullen said the occasion couldn’t be more fitting for his last visit as Commanding Officer.
“It has been an absolute pleasure to Command Huon and the exceptional team of men and women onboard,” he said.
“To be able to visit Hobart, and return to Huonville and the Huon Valley region is a perfect way to spend my last visit as Commanding Officer.
“It was a pleasure to reconnect with the people of Huon Valley, a name for which we carry with a great deal of pride.”
A bigger day followed, however, with exercising Freedom of Entry into her namesake city for the first time in 14 years.
Located just an hour’s drive from Hobart and famed for apples, wine and cider, Huon was greeted with traditional Tasmanian hail
and driving rain, but even that couldn’t dampen spirits.
Five minutes before the parade formed up, the heavens broke and the sun came out to shine warm on a clear morning for Huon to exercise her right and privilege to Freedom of Entry to the township of Huonville.
And march she did, with swords drawn, drums beating, bands playing and Colours flying.
This was the culminating event for Huon’s six-week deployment and the significance was not lost on any of the crew, particularly when treated to a meeting with Mrs Betty Norris; the naming lady of Huon back in 1997.
Able Seaman Combat System Operator Ethan Brookes said the Freedom of Entry was a memorable experience.
“It’s not everyday in the navy that you get to march in uniform through a small town like Huonville, particularly like this with all the fanfare and ceremony,” he said.
Chief Petty Officer Combat Systems Operator Shane Howell was present for Huon’s first Freedom of Entry in 2003.
“The town and I have changed a lot in 14 years, but that same feeling of pride hasn’t,” he said.
Huon departed Tasmania to return to her home port of HMAS Waterhen in Sydney. (SBLT Liam Northend (author), LSNPC Dylan Kiehn (photographer)