Eventful seven months away for HMAS Darwin crew, including surfing in the Seychelles

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Leading Seaman Daniel Colbert, of Jervis Bay, enjoyed a few days surfing while deployed on the HMAS Darwin. Photo: Michele Mossop Sailors enjoyed emotional reunions with family and friends after seven months at sea. Photo: Michele Mossop
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Able Seaman Jordan Shephard gets a wild greeting from cousin Claudia Bush,13 after disembarking from the HMAS Darwin. Photo: Michele Mossop

Heroin busts, an intercepted weapons smuggling operation, and some surfing in the Seychelles – the past seven months have been eventful for the crew of the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Darwin.

The guided-missile frigate docked at Sydney’s Garden Island on Sunday following a seven-month deployment to the Middle East and east Africa, welcomed by family, friends and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Leading Seaman Daniel Colbert from Jervis Bay said some of the sailors had brought surfboards from home for their days off when the ship docked in the Seychelles.

“We figured if the opportunity arose, we’d need [our surfboards] … so we took them,” he said.

“When we were in the Seychelles, we went and got some waves. We got three days straight of really perfect waves with no one else around.

“So it’s tough, but enjoyable at the same time.”

The ship and its crew of 229 returned to Sydney on Sunday morning to crowds of family and friends, as the lengthy deployment forming part of the government’s Operation MANITOU came to a close.

HMAS Darwin’s Commander ​Phillip Henry said the mission was successful, as it seized nearly a tonne of heroin and 2000 small arms weapons from smuggling operations.

“We did everything that was required of the mission,” Cdr Henry said.

“The Middle East by its nature can be a bit uncertain at times,” he said. “But we are well-trained and well-prepared, and the crew and the ship performed admirably.”

Able Seaman Jordan Shephard said she was overjoyed to return home after “by far probably the hardest” deployment she had ever completed, due to the death of a fellow crew member on board in June.

“We do this for a job all the time, so we’re trained for it,” she said. “But nothing beats coming home and seeing your family.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull joined the happy crowds to welcome and thank the crew members for their “professionalism, courage and dedication”.

Mr Turnbull said recent violence in France and Turkey were reminders of the crucial role played by the Australian Defence Force in protecting national security.

“The work that the Australian Navy does is absolutely critical in providing security for the world [and] providing security for Australia,” Mr Turnbull said.

“It is a vital commitment and the professionalism and the courage and the dedication of the men and women of the Australian Defence Forces is critical in ensuring Australia remains safe,” he said.

The crew will have a month off to rest with their families, before returning for ship maintenance and service by October.