UP FOR CHALLENGE: Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Nicole Francis at Combined Maritime Forces, Navy Headquarters in Manama, Bahrain.
UP FOR CHALLENGE: Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Nicole Francis at Combined Maritime Forces, Navy Headquarters in Manama, Bahrain. SGT Ray Vance

Navy adventure takes former IGGS student to the high seas

NICOLE Francis left her beloved hometown of Windorah and its 60 residents at the young age of 12 to go to boarding school, starting a journey that would take her around the world.

During her final year at Ipswich Girls' Grammar School, Nicole applied to join the Defence Force and the following year she embarked on an adventure with the Royal Australian Navy.

That adventure has taken Lieutenant Nicole Francis to the Combined Maritime Forces in Manama, Bahrain, far from remote western Queensland.

The Combined Maritime Forces undertakes security and stability operations across 3.2million square miles of international waters, which includes some of the world's most important shipping lanes.

"Growing up 150km from the sea, I never expected I would end up with a career in the Navy and deployed to the other side of the world as part of a multinational Naval headquarters," Lieutenant Francis said.

Lieutenant Francis provides personnel and logistics support to the Maritime Operation Support Group on Operation Manitou - Australia's commitment to the multinational Combined Maritime Forces.

"My role ranges from personnel and administrative functions, including finance and pay, to logistics requirements such as providing support to Australian ships operating in the region through delivery of stores and mail," Lieutenant Francis said.

With 32 partner nations from across the globe contributing to CMF, there are about 15 partner ships operating in CMF's area of operations at any one time.

"Each week, I attend a logistics meeting with our international partners to understand where the other ships are operating," she said

"This gives me situational awareness and has proven to assist in solving logistics problems.

"For example, if an Australian naval vessel has a priority stores request, a nearby partner nation's ship may be able to assist by providing the required part quicker than transporting the item from Australia to Bahrain."

Lieutenant Francis said the Navy had given her many opportunities to work alongside international partners and to see the world.

Just weeks before deploying, Lieutenant Francis worked remotely in America for five months with her husband Jack, who is an Army Engineer Corps officer currently posted to Washington DC.

"My career in the Navy has taken me to Hawaii, Samoa, Guam, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and Papua New Guinea on various exercises and training opportunities," she said.

While she said getting to work with different nations is one of the most enjoyable aspects of her job, by the end of this six-month deployment she'll no doubt be missing home.

"Having been away from Australia for some time now, I'll be looking forward to the Aussie things I have missed like Australian bacon and bread, and spending time with family," she said.

A visit home to the Barcoo Shire is also on the cards for Lieutenant Francis.

"Getting everyone together these days is a challenge but I hope to return to Windorah for Anzac Day next year to visit family and friends," she said.

Lieutenant Francis will spend the next few months in Bahrain before returning to Australia to take up a new posting in Melbourne as an Information Communication Technology Project Officer.