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Liam McNeill - Mackay

A young soldier from Mackay is hoping to be home in time for Christmas after spending the past month in the Philippines helping with a disaster relief operation.

Craftsman Liam McNeill, 21, has been part of Operation Philippines Assist, which was the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) response to Typhoon Haiyan.

Liam is a fitter and armourer with the Townsville-based 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment (3CER), which deployed to Ormoc province on November 28 to clean up and repair the devastation caused by the typhoon.

Liam, who was a sergeant in Mackay’s 122 Army Cadet Unit during his school days, said he is hoping to be home in time for Christmas with his family and friends.

“I am really looking forward to getting home for Christmas with the family,” he said.

The former student from Holy Spirit College is expected to arrive in Australia by C-130J ‘Hercules’ military aircraft on December 20.

Liam said his parents, Toni and Greg McNeill, are proud of him being in the Army and particularly his role in the ADF’s Philippines disaster relief operation.

The proud soldier said he has many stories to tell his loved ones about his experiences in the Philippines.

The Australian Army engineers and sailors from the Navy’s heavy-lift ship, HMAS Tobruk, cleaned up and repaired 16 schools over the duration of the operation, allowing 15,500 students to return to classes.

Liam said his job involved fixing chainsaws for the engineers, welding, and also teaching Philippines Army soldiers how to weld.

“They did pretty well and were happy with what I taught them,” he said.

“It’s good to be able to pass on trade skills so they’re not wasted.”

Liam said he appreciated the friendliness of the local people who came out to wave the soldiers when they drove through the streets, after repairing local schools..
Commander of the joint task force Lieutenant Colonel Rod Lang said the Army 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,” he said.