Two adventurous souls from the beach community of Kingscliff, New South Wales, have been reunited by chance in the desert sands of the Middle East as soldiers in the Australian Army.
Lance Corporal (LCpl) Patrick Brennan and Private (Pte) Georgia Gilbertson, who both attended Kingscliff High School, are now deployed as members of the Force Support Element (FSE) on Operation Accordion.
LCpl Brennan said Pte Gilbertson was a couple of years behind him during high school.
"Georgia and I recognised each other during our force preparation course in Sydney," he said.
"We suddenly realised we were both from Kingscliff and had gone to the same high school together."
LCpl Brennan joined the Army in 2010 is normally based at RAAF Base Richmond with Army’s 176 Air Dispatch Squadron.
His first deployment was to Afghanistan in 2013 during Operation Slipper.
LCpl Brennan said his current role with FSE in the Middle East was to ensure military cargo was delivered and received throughout the region including Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I am proud to be a part of Operation Accordion," he said.
"When I see the amount of cargo we are moving around the Middle East, and what we are pushing into the different locations, it definitely makes me feel as though I am contributing to the operation.
LCpl Brennan said his team moves a wide range of stores, both large and small.
"On one hand we've handled Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles and Mack trucks returning from Afghanistan, on the other we've sent forward nuts and bolts to a nearby air base so RAAF fighter jets can keep flying missions in Iraq," he said.
LCpl Brennan said his biggest challenge was trying to plan his wedding while deployed.
"My fiancée Teome and I hope to have our wedding organised by the end of 2016," he said.
"I don't finish my tour until the early next year, and I am looking forward to seeing her and catching up with my family."
FSE provides combat service support and in-theatre induction training for Australian Defence Force personnel in the Middle East region under Operation Accordion, the operational name for the Australian headquarters in the Middle East which overseas and supplies the various Australian tasks group operating throughout the region.
FSE services include supply, maintenance, transportation, health and postal, all required by soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen in-theatre to continue their missions.
Pte Gilbertson volunteered for the NSW Rural Fire Brigade when she was 16-years-old, but was in need of more adventure.
Once she turned 18 in 2011 she enlisted in the Army.
Nowadays she usually works as a petroleum operator with the 10th Force Support Battalion based in Townsville.
Pte Gilbertson said it was fantastic to be deployed to the Middle East at the same time as LCpl Brennan.
"It's cool because when Patrick and I are thinking about home we can talk about Kingscliff and what we would rather be doing, such as jumping into the water off the local bridge," she said.
"We are not so alone when we remember the things from home we are both missing."
Pte Gilbertson said her role in the Middle East meant she needed to learn new skills to work in the FSE warehouse.
"I needed to understand how to receipt and issue items and the mange those items in the warehouse," she said.
"It is very important to me to be a part of Operation Accordion, especially as a petroleum operator as deployments are rare.
"It's definitely something to be proud of and one of the main reasons I joined the Army."
Pte Gilbertson said she looked forward to catching up with her partner Aaron at the end of the deployment.
"I also can't wait to visit my family and get back into the Kingscliff surf."