Herald journalist Ben Smee is on an East Timor peacekeeping mission alongside Hunter members of the defence reserves and their day-job bosses.
Nanjing Night Net

Today the Hunter woke up to another Monday morning. Many of my colleagues were, no doubt, nursing Christmas party hangovers. And I was on a plane to join a peacekeeping mission in East Timor.

At 3am I was on my way to Darwin Airport.

For those of you whose morning sleep-in was disturbed by a hyperactive alarm clock, please think of me.

While you’ve been at work today, probably watching the clock tick as it rolls towards the end of another year, I’ll have been put through my paces with Hunter members of the defence reserves and their day-job bosses.

We’re on a regular exercise knows as “Boss Lift”. Employers, who have given their workers up to a year away to spend time in the reserve forces, are here to get a taste of life in Operation Astute.

Over the next few days, I’ll spend time with Hunter bosses and their employees in East Timor. They will include the former workmates of Craftsman Beau Pridue from Speers Point, who tragically died in a heavy vehicle crash while serving in East Timor in September.

The reservists here are from the 8th Brigade, which contains mainly forces from Northern NSW.

The brigade was formed in Egypt in 1915, and soldiers from Cessnock and Merewether were killed in action at Fromelles during the later stages of World War I.

The soldiers here are engineers, tradesmen, teachers and transport workers.

We’ve been promised Black Hawk helicopter flights, experience firing military weapons, tours of defence bases, hard-core personal training, and other experiences typical of the peacekeeping forces in East Timor.

Australian reservists make up a large proportion of the International Stabilising Force that assists the local government and the United Nations to maintain order in the young nation.

Check back tomorrow to find out how Ben has fared so far.