US and Australian servicemembers bond over shared name aboard HMAS Adelaide

Marine Corps Lt. Joshua Ley pours a cup of coffee aboard the HMAS Adelaide in the Coral Sea on Tuesday, July 16, 2019.



ABOARD THE HMAS ADELAIDE — On his second day getting acquainted with the Australian crew of the HMAS Adelaide as part of Talisman Sabre 2019, 1st Lt. Josh Ley was thrown into the ring.

Suddenly, the U.S. Marine from Ohio was leading intelligence operations on the Royal Australian Navy’s largest warship — and he had to brief the ship’s commanding officer, he recently told Stars and Stripes.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Ley said. “But jumping in, I was really intertwined with them right away.”

When he saw the name “Ley” embroidered on the tape over the Australian captain’s left breast pocket, the tension eased.

“He looks at me, and we step into the hallway and he goes, ‘I’m Jonathan Ashley,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m Joshua Aaron,’” Ley said. “It was one of the most surreal moments.”

Both J. A. Leys were amused by the coincidence. Capt. Jonathan Ley said the two discussed their lineages and are planning to research to see if they are related.

“I know the Ley name comes from a region in the U.K. where the Mayflower sailed from,” Jonathan Ley said, offering a possible hint to their ancestry.

What’s more is that after a promotion, Marine 1st Lt. J. A. Ley will become Capt. J. A. Ley, matching his name twin’s title, as well.

Josh Ley said it was just an example of the hospitality he’s experienced while embedding with the Australians during the monthlong Talisman Sabre exercise that brought together 34,000 troops of the two nations, as well as Canada, Japan, the U.K. and New Zealand.

“Coming on board, you never know what to expect when working with partner nations,” Josh Ley said. “But the respect and the professionalism and the work ethic is very similar to Americans, in that we work hard and take it very seriously.”

As the intel operations officer, Josh Ley said he oversees a joint team of Marine and Australian Defence Force intelligence personnel analysts.

“We track and figure out what the enemy’s doing, where he’s located and what he intends to do,” the American Ley said.

He said Talisman Sabre and his six-week embark on the Adelaide has been a lesson in overcoming barriers.

“It’s more than just putting out good intelligence products for the exercise — we’re learning about the process,” Ley said. “How do we communicate? How do we work across the barriers when we don’t understand each other?”

The bond between the cross-national cohorts developed during the exercise extended outside work hours, as well — thanks, in part, to the lieutenant and captain’s fluke connection.

“It’s funny, all the Aussies around here call me like, ‘Oh, Joshua Aaron! Joshua Aaron!’ and it’s a thing now. ‘Oh, the other J.A. Ley on the boat,’” Josh Ley said. “It’s pretty neat.”

“It was a small coincidence, but the Aussies have been so welcoming.”

Twitter: @CaitlinDoornbos


Capt. Jonathan Ley is commanding officer of the Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Adelaide.

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