A traditional Christmas feast is a consistent theme linking more than 3600 Australian Defence Force personnel deployed on operations throughout the world this festive season.
Deployed soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen have been celebrating Christmas Day in locations as far reaching as Afghanistan, the Middle East, Egypt and Sudan, with others closer to home in East Timor, Solomon Islands and on border protection duties in Australia’s north.
Considerable effort was also made to ensure that soldiers serving in the outlying patrol bases did not miss out and enjoyed a special hot meal with tastes of home and an abundance of assorted treats.
Commander of Australian troops in the Middle East, Major General John Cantwell, made a short visit on Christmas Eve to patrol bases near Mirawais in the Chora Valley to bring a Christmas message and, importantly, mail and resupplies. He spent Christmas morning with troops at Multi-National Base Tarin Kot before returning to the Australian national headquarters location at Al Minhad, UAE.
Near Africa and the Gulf of Aden sailors onboard HMAS Melbourne embraced the Christmas spirit by hosting a slightly unusual “carols by cyalume” on the flight deck.
Closer to home, Australian soldiers serving in Solomon Islands also commenced festivities with carols on Christmas Eve, followed by a Midnight Mass. On Christmas Day, the command team handed out care packages sent by the Australian public to the troops, followed by an afternoon of sports.
As part of the International Stabilisation Force, Australian Defence Force personnel in East Timor hosted a group of 40 children from Dili’s St Bakhita Orphanage at lunch.
Commander of Joint Operations Command Lieutenant General Mark Evans said, “During this Christmas period, all Australians should spare a thought for and be very proud of our deployed men and women who are serving their country with distinction on operations at home and on distant shores. They consistently demonstrate Australian values, professionalism and compassion and are held in the highest regard amongst their peers and all whom they encounter”.