Adventure and a different lifestyle is what Lance Corporal Natalie Hudson of Dubbo was looking for when she joined the Australian Army in 2011.
35-year-old Natalie, from the 8th/12th Regiment Royal Australian Artillery based in Darwin was a beauty therapist and wanted to do something totally different. While travelling with a friend to the Top End, she met some people who told her about the Army lifestyle.
Now in Kabul, Afghanistan for her first operational deployment her main job is to take delivery and account for ammunition, as well as handling, storing, receipting and issuing ammunition for Operation Highroad in Kabul Afghanistan.
"I didn’t think females in the Army were very common and I didn’t know if I had what it took to get into the Army as a woman - so I thought I would just give it a go," Natalie said.
"My cousin, my uncle, my step-father and my grandfather were all in the Army and the more I looked into it, I thought maybe I could do this."
"It sounded so appealing to me, so after a bit of research I put all my eggs in one basket and went for it."
Natalie studied at Delroy High School in Dubbo finishing year 12 in 1997. She met her policeman husband, Bill, in 2001and moved to Nowra on the South Coast.
Eventually they moved to Queensland where Natalie attended beauty college until she joined the Army.
After recruit training at Kapooka and then initial employment training in Albury, Natalie was posted to Darwin where she is still based.
It is the interaction with other nations that Natalie has enjoyed the most about her deployment.
"I deal a lot with the explosive ordnance disposal guys from the Turkish Army.
"We don’t have the resources ourselves here to dispose of ammunition so we hand it over to them to dispose of it. We go out with them to help with putting ammunition into the burn bins when disposal is required."
The Australian troops deployed in Kabul also regularly participate in social events such as fun runs and trivia nights with coalition forces such as the Danish and French.
"The French organised an obstacle course which meant getting in the mud and crawling through the drains. It sounds really disgusting but it was fun and it was cold."
An avid cake baker and decorator, Natalie was also one of the main drivers behind the Christmas celebrations for the Australian and Danish troops in Kabul. What she could not get from the mess kitchens on base she had posted from her mum in Australia.
"I thought about the types of food that people would want to eat at Christmas so I ordered it online and had it delivered to mum who posted 18 small boxes of food here."
"I kept in mind to not have perishables so we got fruit mince pies, truffle balls, fudge, cake mixes, lamingtons.
"I also made a pavlova because everyone loves a pavlova at Christmas.
"Because we couldn’t be with our family or loved ones, we have a different kind of family here on deployment, so it was good to just spend the day together as a group."
After she returns to Australia Natalie plans on taking some well-earned leave and return to Dubbo to see family. She also plans on spending quality time with her husband.
"Normally Bill just leaves me alone when I bake cakes but he said he is going to just sit at the kitchen bench and watch me make cakes because he misses me so much."
Natalie and Bill will stay in Darwin with Natalie posting on promotion as a Corporal to the 1st Combat Signal Regiment.
Natalie is one of approximately 400 Australian Defence Force personnel deployed to Afghanistan under Joint Task Force 636 (Operation Highroad) supporting the NATO Resolute Support Mission.