A FORMER Whitefriars College pupil continued his family’s military tradition with a recent deployment to Solomon Islands as part of the ADF’s stabilisation mission.
Dave Van Helden, an Army Reserve corporal from Lower Templestowe, has recently returned from the Solomon Islands where he was transport supervisor with the Australian Army’s final rotation of troops.
Dave’s job was to ensure the fleet of Army vehicles was always ready for action, and that his team of drivers were fully-trained for the local conditions.
He said the skills he had acquired during his deployment would be of benefit to his civilian job as a project manager with Unique Floors.
“Being able to bring a project in on time using skills such as adapting and overcoming problems, punctuality, planning and executing that plan to minimise problems, are all things we do everyday here,” he said.
“We had reservists from different units all over Victoria, as well as regular soldiers from Tonga, PNG and New Zealand.
“But we quickly became one team over here to get the job done, and it’s been a rewarding experience.
“People from very different backgrounds came together for the one goal of making Solomon Islands a safer place for Solomon Islanders to live.”
Dave spent some of his time off assisting with training kids from the China Town AFL Team.
“They didn’t have their own ground so they trained on a small beach clearing about the size of a basketball court, at the mouth of a river,” he said.
“The sand was dirty and littered with rubbish and bottles, but despite this spirits were high.
“They shoved a few sticks into the sand for goal posts and away they went.
“It was great to see, in a soccer-dominated culture, the game loved by so many Australians being played and enjoyed by our neighbours.”
Dave said one of his grandfathers was in the Australian Army’s 67th Battalion with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) in Japan just after WW2.
“My other grandfather was in the Dutch Navy on the Fremantle-based light cruiser Jacob van Heemskerck fighting the Japanese to the north of Australia,” he said.