Peter and Kurt Moroney
Nanjing Night Net

Newcastle Herald journalist Ben Smee is on an East Timor peacekeeping mission alongside Hunter members of the defence reserves.

EVER sat through one of those aeroplane safety displays, been given the full rundown of every disaster scenario possible, and spent the rest of the flight on edge?

Think yourself lucky Qantas don’t fly Black Hawks.

The 25-minute safety briefing for the helicopters includes everything from “what to do if we hit the water with the propellers still whirring” to “when to use the emergency axe to hack away at military equipment worth hundreds of millions of dollars”.

Fortunately, our Air Force blokes are cocky enough to add that we won’t need to use any of our newfound knowledge, because they know how to fly. Which is just as well, considering the roller coaster ride they attempted above Dili and rural East Timor yesterday.

From TLAG (another great military acronym that stands for Timor Leste Aviation Group) we headed west of Dili, dipped, dived and lurched over rugged country, and then flew back along the city’s coast.

I’m here with a group of bosses from the Hunter and Northern NSW, who are visiting their employees during a year-long deployment with peacekeeping forces in East Timor.

Peter Moroney runs Buildwise Construction and Inspections, and has two employees here: Anthony Gillian and his son, Kurt Moroney. The business employs several reservists and Peter says he is proud that Kurt and Anthony will come back with additional skills and experience.

“It’s their journey and it’s what they want to do, and as far as I’m concerned it’s great for these guys to come over and serve their country,” he said.

Kurt agreed.

“Our leadership and our self confidence has been boosted immensely,” he said.

Peter struggled on the bumpy Black Hawk, and was ribbed afterwards by Kurt. He had more success at the Liquica firing range, where the bosses chewed through ammunition with a selection of military firearms. Their employees must go through extensive training in the reserves before they’re even allowed on the range, so yesterday was a special treat.

The range isn’t fenced or secured with the military precision of other facilities in East Timor, and groups of local children are regular observers of firearms training.

Yesterday, they were given a special treat as infantrymen showed off their precision, staged a mock shootout, and then handed the weapons to some eager but mostly off-target amateurs.

We leave the country today. But stay tuned for a final instalment tomorrow morning.