ACT News


Trio celebrate Christmas despite tour of duty

Three Canberra soldiers are spending very different Christmases, scattered across the globe.

Natalie Bush, 29, an army reservist and signaller whose ''day job'' is with the Bureau of Statistics, arrived in Honiara in the Solomon Islands on November 30 for a four-month deployment.

Signaller Krystelle Watts, also an army reservist, and an ANU student from Belconnen, is helping pack up the ADF's facilities in Dili in East Timor.

Major Aaron D'Alton, a member of the Regular Army's legal corps for the past eight years and who normally works out of an office at Duntroon, is almost midway through his second six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The former civilian lawyer from Townsville is grappling with sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfalls in Kabul.

Related coverage


Signaller Bush, on the other hand, is revelling in warm tropical days and mild nights on her island paradise.

Signaller Watts is also getting in some serious beach time in Dili with the help of local urchins keen to improve their sporting skills.

''They get very excited when we break out a ball or a tube,'' she said.

The three soldiers have one thing in common. They all miss being with their families over the Christmas period. Nonetheless, they accept that, having signed up, long deployments and time spent away from loved ones are part of the package.

The separation is particularly poignant for Major D'Alton who has two sons, Caspar and Otis, aged five and 20 months respectively.

''[Otis] is really starting to develop, I'm missing a lot of milestones,'' he said.

''My wife is very good with sending photographs and Defence gives us free phone calls so I can ring home every day if I get the time.''

A graduate of Duntroon's three-month specialist officers course, Major D'Alton said he had always been interested in the military.

''Living in Townsville I used to drive past Lavarack Barracks every day on the way to work,'' he said. ''You would see the soldiers out doing their PT. I liked the idea of being paid to keep yourself fit.''

Signaller Bush, who has been with the Army Reserves for the past six years, also sees her service as a way to do things she would not otherwise get the chance to do.

There have also been chances to experience local culture and to explore the relics of the fierce battles that raged across the Solomons when the Allies attacked the Japanese garrison 70 years ago.

A keen snorkeller, Signaller Bush said the Fijian lagoons offered some of the best diving in the world.

On Christmas Day she and her mates will enjoy a buffet lunch served by the officers and senior NCOs of Operation Anode.

Half a world and a hemisphere away, Major Bush will be lining up for a white Christmas barbecue outside his quarters in Kabul.

Signaller Watts, meanwhile, is hanging out for a rumoured seafood lunch in Dili.