Saturday, October 4, 2008

Soliders bid farewell as they fly out to Timor

EMOTIONS ran high at Darwin Airport yesterday as more than 120 troops bound for East Timor farewelled their loved ones.
It was a particularly hard time for Darwin-based soldier Warrant Officer Class 2 Leigh Hedger as he only married his wife Debbie 10 days ago, and the newlyweds' first child is due while he is away in March.
He hadn't even boarded his flight yesterday when Mrs Hedger, who fought to hold back tears, said: "I'm looking forward to him coming home."
The deployment is for eight months and it is WO2 Hedger's third mission to East Timor in his 18 years in the Army.
"It's always hard being away from family but I am also really looking forward to the deployment," he said.
"It will be good to see how much the country has changed since we got involved."
WO2 Hedger, from Durack in Palmerston, is among more than 400 Darwin Diggers from the 1st Brigade's 5th Royal Australian Regiment at Robertson Barracks who will deploy to East Timor in separate groups this week.
The troops, some who have also been pulled from Adelaide, will form the Timor-Leste Battle Group 5 (TLBG-5).
Their main role will be to provide support to the Timorese government to maintain stability and law and order.
For Darwin-based trooper, Private Cory Lahz, 22, it will be his first overseas deployment since joining the Army a year ago.
"It's an exciting time," he said.
5RAR Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jake Ellwood, said saying goodbye to family was always hard for the soldiers.
"The leaving is always difficult," he said. "But it's the life of a soldier, - that's our job and as always the guys are raring to go.
"They feel very prepared for the mission that is ahead of them."
Australian Defence Forces have been on peace keeping missions in East Timor since October 1999.
Lt-Col Ellwood said they were "absolutely" making a difference.
He said, like all overseas deployments, there would be a "level of risk" for the soldiers in East Timor. (


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