Serving in the Solomons

ARMY reservists from Armidale, Tamworth and Muswellbrook will spend Christmas away from their families and will instead be serving in the Solomon Islands.

The 12 reservists and two full-time officers leave for the Solomons this week to serve as part of a multinational force on Operation ANODE and will not return to Australia until early next year.

12th/16th Hunter River Lancers commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel James Cameron said the deployment was part of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which assists the Solomon Islands government in policing public order and security.

This is rotation 29 since RAMSI began in mid-2003 and for 13 of these troops, it is their first overseas deployment.

“From the 12th/16th HRL there is the commander of the mission, one female nursing officer, and the other 12 are going as infantry soldiers providing all the skill sets including communication, public order and crowd control – the usual kind of tasks that we have performed in areas like East Timor,” Lieutenant Colonel Cameron said.

“They will be there supporting the police force with two platoons of Australians and a platoon of Papua New Guinea officers.”

Lieutenant Colonel Cameron said he was proud of his personnel who were serving Australia in this deployment and proud because this is predominantly a reserve deployment, made up mostly of reservists, not full-time army personnel.

“This is what the new reserve actually does,” he said.

“RAMSI is a mission that the full-time army used to do and is a real commitment to our Pacific region nations. It’s all about getting reservists to do a real job where reservists are actually committing to Australian government outcomes. They will come back much better skilled and much better employees as well.” 

Being away from their families will be difficult for many, but Lieutenant Colonel Cameron said the soldiers and their families would be supported by 

welfare systems within Defence.

“There’s an entire welfare plan for the soldiers who are going and the families who are left behind who get access to the community support apparatus,” he said.

“We will try to engage with the families as much as we can and the families are coming together and enjoying the experience as well. Now all of these families are coming together and forming quite a good bond while they have members who are deployed.”

The soldiers were farewelled at Pymble with a parade in front of parliamentary secretary for Defence Senator David Feeney, Commander 2nd Division Major-General Steve Smith and Commander 8th Brigade Brigadier Allan Murray.

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