Enlisting in the Army is a common dream for many boys in Australia, but for Ab Gadi, moving to Heidelberg from war torn Somalia in the 1990s, it also represented a chance to give back to his adopted country.
Now on deployment with Operation Anode, Ab is supporting the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), where he is a member of the rifle company as part of Combined Task Force 635, which is on standby to provide assistance to the local police force in maintaining stability in the region.
“My job is an infantry company signaller and my role is to ensure I have the communications set up for the company,” Ab said.
With the Australian Defence Force contribution to the mission changing from July 1st 2013, the military presence in the area has been lowered giving the Royal Solomon Island Police Force the opportunity to maintain their own security responsibilities. This has meant a shift in focus for the rifle company, giving Ab’s workmates the chance to focus on their soldiering skills.
“We’ve been doing a lot of conductive training, and ensuring we’re up to date and have the qualifications we require,” Ab said.
An Australian Army Reservist, Ab holds the rank of Private. However, unlike many of his Reserve counterparts, Ab spent 5 years in the Australian Regular Army, and was given the chance to deploy to East Timor in 2008.
“It’s been a bit challenging but it’s been quite good, as much as it’s a different experience from Timor where we were out in the community a lot more, it’s a different kind of challenge. In Timor, it was quite violent, the threat level was higher and you dealt with an ongoing situation rather that here where it’s more low key.
“Getting out in the jungle was great; I’ve been in the jungle before in Tully (Queensland) and I know what it’s about; everything eats you alive! Here in the jungle you’ve got locals that live around here so they bring you fruits and things and it’s great to get the chance to see their culture firsthand. The best thing about it in comparison to my last deployment is that in East Timor they don’t speak English so it was hard to communicate but here they understand you and if they don’t quite understand you can still get your message across,” Ab said.
Now a world away from his native Somalia, Ab says growing up in Victoria had its own challenges, but once he found his feet, going to school in Heidelberg Heights and fitting in was easy as riding a bike.
“It was challenging at the beginning trying to fit in with the Australian community because Australians tend to pick on everything and have a laugh, whereas where I come from is totally different; it’s always about respect for your elders, and never doing anything wrong in front of them. For example, the first time that I went to school in Australia it was weird because back home when everyone is sitting down in the classroom and the teacher walks in it is like the CO (Commanding Officer) walks in to a room, everyone braces up and says good morning. Yet coming to Australia is different and the teacher takes 15 minutes to settle the classroom, a few years later I was acting exactly the same so I fit in well to the culture! It was easy to make friends, I always think of it like you have to stay humble and always stay positive and you’ll do well,” Ab said.
Now 32 years old, Ab said joining the Australian Army was a natural choice when he finished school, and has enjoyed the different opportunities that have come his way.
“I joined because I wanted a challenge. I wanted to see what I could do as a person and learn the qualities and traditions of the Army as well, courage, initiative, respect and team work. Australia gave me some great opportunities so I wanted to give back to the nation. I’m a patriot and I wanted to serve my country.
“Throughout the army you build friendships and the more people you know makes your job easier. You are always learning new things about yourself as well so you have a lot of self development opportunities,” Ab said.
Ab’s next big challenge will be returning to the civilian world, away from Army life, he says it’s the next chapter in his life and he’s looking forward to what it may involve.
“When I get home the civilian world will be weird! I’ll still do my Army Reserve work, but my plan is to maybe get in to the mining industry or to continue running an event management business which I’ve been doing for quite a while in Melbourne. I also want to finish my business degree, I put it on hold for a while so I’m planning to finish it at Latrobe University,” he said
The Australian Defence Force-led Combined Task Force 635 has supported RAMSI since July 2003. The task force has now completed its mission in Solomon Islands and will shortly redeploy back to Australia.