Foreign military officials visited Navy establishments in April as part of an international engagement program that aims to foster ties.
CAPTION: Members of the Service Attaches and Advisors Group during their tour of the Navy School of Survivability and Ship Safety in Jervis Bay, NSW. Story by Lieutenant Gordon Carr-Gregg. Photo by Chief Petty Officer Cameron Martin.
This was the first tour of Defence establishments by the Service Attachés and Advisers Group (SAAG) since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group met with key Defence leaders and toured HMA Ships Albatross, Creswell, Kuttabul, Penguin and Watson, as well as landing helicopter dock HMAS Adelaide alongside Fleet Base East, NSW.
Director Navy International Engagement Captain Ryan Gaskin said the SAAG members fulfilled a vital function in maintaining bilateral and multilateral international relations.
“These foreign military personnel arrive in Australia from a wide variety of nations and backgrounds,” Captain Gaskin said.
“The inability to travel internationally throughout COVID-19 has seen the Canberra-based SAAG become the primary means for face-to-face engagement with our international partners.”
Defence Advisor to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, PNG and Tonga, Captain Akhilesh Menon, from the Indian Navy, was a participant in the SAAG engagement program.
“A key part of my role as a defence adviser is advising the government of opportunities in increasing defence cooperation, fostering defence relations, promoting global harmony and facilitating operations, especially in various humanitarian and disaster relief roles,” Captain Menon said.
“Getting to know the ADF capability has been very valuable. Fostering defence partnerships and interoperability between various armed forces will go a long way in strategic defence cooperation.”
Embassy of Sweden Defence Attaché Lieutenant-Colonel Mika Ihalainen also participated in the engagement program.
“The most compelling part of the program was meeting the personnel at different locations and bases,” he said.
“This engagement program in addition gives a much deeper and broader understanding of Australia and the ADF which is critical to understand the Australian DNA.”
The SAAG program varies from year to year, and will continue throughout 2021 with visits to different Australian defence establishments, industry partners, cultural sites and regional areas.