FLINDERS VIEW resident Gillian Bryant says a letter from Wallabies legend John Eales and commemorating Anzac Day overseas will be two unforgettable memories of her deployment to Afghanistan.
The Australian Army Sergeant, a Royal Australian Corps of Transport soldier, is deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan with Force Support Unit-9 for Operation Slipper to support Australia’s mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
The former South Australian, whose extended family resides in the Barossa Valley, said she was enjoying her deployment and was shocked the day she opened her inbox to find an email from her rugby union idol.
“He is such a brilliant sportsman and a wonderful human being,” Gill said. “A friend of mine had passed on my email address and he had sent me a letter thanking me for deploying and for the work the ADF does.”
“I couldn’t believe it. It was very humbling to receive a letter of support from a legend of the sport.
“There are more than 400 of us over here doing the best job we can to look after our mates and make sure we maintain the ADF’s fine reputation.
“I’ll keep the letter as one of my most treasured possessions.”
Operation Slipper marks Gill’s third international deployment after service in Timor Leste with International Force East Timor (1999-2000) and again with the United Nations Transitional Administration East Timor (UNTAET) in 2001 – 2002.
She has also deployed domestically for Operation Resolute (border security) in 2007 and Operation Victorian Bushfire Assist in 2009.
“Over here, I am responsible for the prioritisation of transport tasks, conduct and manage flight line (airfield) training for the unit and also play a part in the overall management of the transport element here,” she said.
“As an ‘Ops Room Sergeant’, I also manage the leased vehicles used here by Australian personnel.”
Gill rates spending time with her partner Annette Tonkin and their pets at the top of a long list of things to catch up on when she returns to Australia after more than six months away from home.
“I can’t wait to sit down and have a well-earned glass of wine - it’s been a long time away from home and I miss them all,” Gill said.
“Knowing that I have a supportive partner, family and friends back home makes things a lot easier and it will be my turn to be as supportive to them in all the ways I can when I get back.”
Following the completion of Australia’s mission in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province last year, Australia’s efforts have shifted to a nationally-orientated mission throughout 2014, providing training and advisory support to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
About 400 ADF personnel will continue to work in Afghanistan in 2014 through training and advising the ANSF in both Kabul and Kandahar. A further 800 personnel are deployed within the broader Middle East Area of Operations, including the maritime environment.