RENOVATING school buildings in Cambodia is a far cry from life on a cattle station but Cameron Hawkins has enjoyed every minute of it.
Growing up on a station near Willows Gemfields gave Cameron a love of the outdoors - a must-have for any job in the Australian Army.
Now a lieutenant, he is just back from Pacific Partnership 2010, an annual US-led humanitarian mission to South East Asia and Oceania.
These days Cameron is usually based in Brisbane, but for the last six weeks he was in charge of 11 Australian combat engineers who undertook reconstruction tasks in Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as providing water wells to a number of communities in Cambodia.
“My team worked really well together, integrating with their American counterparts in both countries. The fact that we are helping people access essential services made the long, hard and really hot days so much easier to bear,” he said.
Cameron’s team also improved the facilities at a school for disabled children in Vietnam.
“It was my job to manage the co-ordination between the mission planners, the American combat engineers — called Seabees — and the workload of my team as well as their welfare and discipline. I won’t say it was easy, but my training and our prior preparations all assisted in getting the job done,” said Cameron.
“Cattle work is outside in the hot sun and is also really hands-on, and both these things apply to my job as an army engineering officer. I spent almost six years training to do my job and now I know I have made the right decision,” said Cameron.
Cameron is now heading back to his wife of four years and two small children aged two and three, who are Brisbane-based.
“Time away from my family is really tough, but the experiences on this deployment really were once in a lifetime,” said Cameron.
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