James Lybrand - Middle East deployment
I was embedded in the US Fifth Fleet, and I was dual hatted as the maritime task group commander in the Middle East and I was the director of operations for the combined maritime forces, which is a 33-nation coalition responsible for maritime security in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Bab-el-Mandeb, and Arabian Sea. And it's under the auspices of the US Fifth Fleet but it's a larger coalition, broken into a number of smaller task forces, which were CDF 150, which was effectively Arabian Sea drug activities, Task Force 151, which was a bit further afield, and Task Force 152, which was sort of inside the Arabian Sea.
So that came about, quite unexpectedly, actually, I had thought I was going to a different role and was asked, offered the opportunity, I suppose to go to the Middle East as a 12-month sort of operational posting that are deployed sort of away from family to do that activity and that was not something that was on my radar ever to go to the Middle East. Mostly it had been surface people who had been posted there and people who had experience on ships, although there had been one submariner in the role before.
So it was a great opportunity to do something different and, in particular, in a different maritime environment with a different fleet that I hadn’t worked with before. So it was also a pretty interesting time, right? So the Navy was drawing down, the ADF, we're drawing down on our commitment in the Middle East and secondary to that, in the start of that period was when Iranians or a state-based actor started commencing attacks on surface shipping.
So there were a number of surface ships that were attacked, and partially blown up by mines in the period. So from a security environment perspective, it was a pretty interesting, exciting time to be there as well.