Like ships in the night

When the Royal Australian Navy’s biggest ships rendezvoused in Nuku`alofa Harbour in Tonga in early March as part of Operation Tonga Assist 2022, two Defence families had instant family reunions.

CAPTION: Army soldier Private Tim Melvin, right, reunites with his daughter, Navy sailor Leading Seaman Esther Melvin, on HMAS Canberra on Operation Tonga Assist 2022. Story by Lieutenant Brendan Trembath. Photo by Leading Seaman Daniel Goodman.

HMAS Canberra-based aeronautical engineer Lieutenant Commander Stephen ‘Smokey’ Cole was able to catch up with his son Able Seaman Aaron Cole, an aircraft handler on HMAS Adelaide.

Separately, Australian Army soldier Private Timothy Melvin, who manages requests for tools and equipment on Adelaide, was reunited with his daughter, Leading Seaman Esther Melvin, a senior weapons maintainer on Canberra.

It was the first catch up in about two months for both family groups.

“I love my family and really value the time I get to spend with them, so being able to see my Dad while deployed means the world to me,” Leading Seaman Melvin said.

“When I was told he was waiting for me, I ran down to my workshop and jumped into his arms.”

For Private Melvin, who joined the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in 2013, it was an unexpected and special occasion.

“It was a rare opportunity to spend time with family while on an operation at sea,” Private Melvin said.

CAPTION: HMAS Adelaide sailor Able Seaman Aaron Cole, left, reunites with his father, Lieutenant Commander Stephen Cole, from HMAS Canberra in Nuku’alofa Harbour, Tonga. Photo by Leading Seaman Daniel Goodman.

The Cole family father-and-son reunion was also a special occasion.

“It’s the first time we’ve crossed paths at sea and it was really memorable,” Lieutenant Commander Cole said.

“It was also nice to send some photos back to the family.”

Lieutenant Commander Cole joined the Royal Australian Navy in 2011, following 23 years service in the Royal Navy.

“We’re an ADF family – myself and Aaron both serve in the Navy, while Aaron’s brother and my second son, Daniel, serves in the Australian Army as an infantry captain,” Lieutenant Commander Cole said.

Able Seaman Cole, who signed up in 2019, was delighted to see his dad.

“My reunion with my father was very good. It was a nice little break after a very busy period at sea,” Able Seaman Colesaid.

The Coles and the Melvins thank everyone in both ships who facilitated their Tonga family reunions.





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