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Raiders' rookie shines for ADF

CANBERRA's Sean Boller has come a long way in life since joining the Royal Australian Air Force after his dream of playing for the Canberra Raiders didn't go according to plan.

Sean didn't make the grade as a front-row forward with the all-conquering Raiders following a few trial games in 1997, but the Tuggeranonong local did meet the requirements of the Air Force and has never looked back.

Today, Sean is an advanced medical assistant with the rank of Leading Aircraftsman.

Because of his medical qualifications, including aeromedical evacuation, Sean has been in Southeast Asia for the past two-months supporting an international disaster relief coordination activity called "Pacific Partnership 2014".

"It has been a really challenging and rewarding experience to train hospital nursing staff in Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines in basic life support and advanced life support procedures," he said.

"But the highlight for me has been the smiles of appreciation from the hundred or so people I have directly examined and treated at the Pacific Partnership free clinics each day."

The trip to the Philippines has proven especially rewarding for Sean, because he was part of the Australian Medical Assistance Team that responded to Typhoon Haiyan in November last year.

"It is great to be back in the same area only nine months later, because I can see how hard the Filipinos, various governments including our own, and NGOs have worked to rebuild the local infrastructure," he said.

Sean said the conduct of Pacific Partnership over the past nine-years had made possible the "text-book response" to typhoon Haiyan.

"Pacific Partnership was vitally important to the coordination of the disaster relief operation in 2013," he said. 

"Operation Philippines Assist really demonstrated to me how important it is that the ADF and her regional partners are ready to assist when natural disasters strike."

Sean's return to Tacloban, in the Philippines, was filled with almost as much fanfare as that of US General Douglas MacArthur in WWII.

As a sea-rider in a Japan Maritime Self Defence Force ship, the JS Kunisaki, Sean came ashore in a Japanese Navy hovercraft with 100 ADF and US military personnel, disembarking only 200-metres from the life-size statue of Gen MacArthur wading ashore in 1944.

"We had a US Navy admiral meet us when we landed on the beach, who noted it was US Independence Day (4th July) and that we had come ashore as an international force on a Japanese navy hovercraft, only 70 years after MacArthur had to fight his way in," he said.

When Sean gets home at the end of this month (July) he will have a lot of stories to tell his parents as well as his wife, Rachel, and their two sons, William and Charley.

"I can’t wait to get home to make up for lost time with the family," he said.

"I am already thinking about the family BBQs and some sessions with my footy mates."

During his footy career Sean played for the Valley Dragons RLFC from 1992-1999, the Cooma Stallions RLFC from 1999-2000, Northern Power (AFP) RLFC 2000-2001, West Belconnen RLFC during 2001-2002 and finally the Tuggeranong Bushrangers.

Pacific Partnership began as a military-led humanitarian response to one of the world's most catastrophic natural disasters and was born out of the devastation wrought by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that swept through parts of Southeast Asia.