Department of Veterans' Affairs
2006 East Timor went off again. There were fighting in streets and the bad guys were coming out of the hills and doing things to the good guys, so to speak. We put together, I think Timor was basically a Navy medical team, we managed to get, I think it was 15 of us. Now it might not sound like much, but that's 15 from places where we don't have many medics anywhere because we're either at sea, or you're in one of the hospitals but it's hard to get a full Navy crew because the specialists are usually the army guys, and the technical, like the labs and that are raafies.
So basically, we got a small team together, mainly Navy, couple of raafies, to do the other stuff on the Kanimbla, went through Darwin, and then sailed into Dili in support of the army who were going in to take the airport and make the place safe again.
We remained off station for a while, which means out at sea, but you could see everything. Dili was burning again, which was pretty sad, black smoke coming out of everything and you just think, "Really". And the bad guys are setting fires here and doing something bad over here and then when we go there, they'll go to the fire, sorry, they'd set off, set off over here and then they'd light a fire there and it was all over the place.
But within a couple days the army had taken control, we moved the ship alongside, every now and again somebody would shoot at us with shotguns and stuff, so we were told to keep below the ballistic armour on the side of the ships, so you just had to watch what you're doing. Quick as a flash it can get quite boring, but we were there to support the army guys, the captain literally said, "We're like a hotel for the soldiers. And we will shower feed, them, look after them. And that's our job".
We did get to do a couple of trips in the special boats, we went up to the airport, the medics, just for a look basically and offshore, that was okay. But I must admit, one of the funny things was the captain threatened me, he said, "I do not want the next landing at Timor since World War Two to be a boatload of bloody medics getting off in the sand". And they wouldn't let me off in the sand with my troops but we went, had a look. T
imor, after about a week or two weeks, I think it was week, two weeks, it was decided to downsize. I left a couple of my best medics there with the army and they flew the rest of us home. So it was fairly short and sweet. The army did the rough yards, but we've gone in support, to keep them going and stop the fighting. And they did.