Leading Seaman Olivia Saunders said she wouldn’t mind missing mum’s cooking this Christmas, as the young sailor was living “the deployment of a lifetime” in Bahrain.
CAPTION: Leading Seaman Olivia Saunders stands in front of the US base’s Christmas tree, Bahrain. Story and photo by Corporal Jacob Joseph.
“I know mum’s going to make a feast. She does silverside, white sauce, prawns and pavlova,” Leading Seaman Saunders said.
“Nothing against mum’s cooking but we’re doing a multi-national Christmas buffet at a four-star hotel – It’s going to be good.”
Leading Seaman Saunders works on a daily basis with representatives of 30 different nations in the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a multi-national coalition supporting maritime security in the Middle East and Western Indian Ocean.
Almost two months into her six-month deployment, she is one of three Australians deployed on Operation Manitou.
She is the engine room of Manitou, arranging all administrative, logistics, financial and security requirements for the Australian contingent of the CMF.
The CMF is the largest multinational maritime security partnership that works to combat illicit non-state activities, including regularly intercepting smugglers operating in the maritime domain.
“These types of postings are pretty rare for sailors. As a junior sailor I am regularly engaging with our international partners at a senior level which, is an amazing opportunity,” Leading Seaman Saunders said.
“I am enjoying making the most of this unique opportunity to represent Australia on an international stage.”
Manitou is Leading Seaman Saunders’ first deployment, and she has enjoyed getting out of the base and experiencing the culture of Bahrain.
She was pleasantly surprised at how welcoming and accepting Bahrainis are.
“As a woman, there are certain places where you need to cover up, such as places of worship, but overall it’s not what I was expecting,” Leading Seaman Saunders said.
“Of course, there are many cultural differences between Bahrain and Australia that I am always cognisant of when out exploring, but it has been wonderful to also see how similar we are”.
Leading Seaman Saunders said she would have plenty of stories when she posted back to Perth next year.
She planned on calling her mum Christmas morning and expected her family would be eating lunch by the time she woke up.
Presents would be open already.
“The night before we usually open one present each, because we’re all impatient,” she said.