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Beau Watson - Leeton

A FORMER St Francis College student, who followed his big brother into the Army at 17, has been back at school, this time in the Philippines.

LEETON’S Sapper Beau Watson is a member of the Townsville-based 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment (3CER), which is part of the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) response to Typhoon Haiyan.

His unit was tasked with cleaning-up and repairing devastated Filipino schools around Ormoc, a city on the west coast of Leyte.

He said it was good to be able to make a difference in Ormoc, and even better to be home in time for Christmas with his family.

“I’m just glad we can do something for these people, because they have lost so much in the typhoon,” he said.

“All the teachers have been really grateful to have us here and have been giving us a hand with the work.”

Beau was one of 500 ADF personnel who were involved in the disaster relief operation from November 28 to December 20.

HMAS Tobruk and the army engineers have completed its mission in the Philippines and returned to Australia.

Commander of the joint task force Lieutenant Colonel Rod Lang said the departing engineers and HMAS Tobruk’s crew had achieved their mission to help with the Philippines’ recovery.

“Key infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals and power, are gradually being restored which are all key indications the time has come for our military forces to begin to return home.”

Since commencing operations on 28 November, the work of Australian Government staff, Army engineers and Navy sailors has cleaned-up and repaired 13 schools, ensuring 175 classrooms were available for use by students. This has allowed about 14,500 students to return to classes since schools re-opened on 2 December.

Beau’s brother Matt, 22, is also a member of 3CER, but was not involved in Operation Philippines Assist.

“It’s good having Matt in the same unit because, at the end of the day, he’s there for me,” said Beau.

Beau highly recommends a career in the Army for young country people.

“You get to go to some interesting places, even if it’s not under the best circumstances,” he said.

“You also make some good mates and learn some good life skills.”

HMAS Tobruk departed Leyte for Townsville on 9 December and is expected to arrive on December 18. The engineer machinery and vehicles will be offloaded and prepared for future contingencies.