Ex-serviceman Nick Brown spent two tours in East Timor, and now that he’s completed his service he’s looking to go back with the ‘Timor Awakening’ program.
The program provides Australian veterans with a fully funded 11 day tour of East Timor, with follow up care afterwards.
While Mr Brown has been to quite a few of the tour locations before, it’s been more than six years since he was last in the country, and he said he expects it to be a bit of a shock to see it again.
“2000 was the first time I was in East Timor, with a mixture of reservists and full time members, with a unit called Force Logistics Squadron 1,” Mr Brown said.
“We were based a couple of kilometres outside the capital Dili and we ran a few logistics operations, delivering aid.
“One of the major ones was delivering about six tons of rice to villages near the border.”
In 2009, Mr Brown returned to East Timor with an aviation squadron for further peace keeping activities and monitoring.
“We got to climb a mountain that time, Mount Ramelau, and when we go back with Timor Awakening we’ll climb it again, from the base to the summit,” he said.
“I’ve climbed the first 2000ft of it so the whole thing’s going to be a bit challenging.”
As well as sight-seeing and mountain climbing, Mr Brown and other tour members will be meeting former resistance fighters, as well as members of the Indonesian army.
“The resistance fighters fought against Indonesia to get independence, we’re going to meet them, and we’re going to meet some of the people who were affected by Indonesian occupation,” Mr Brown said.
“We’re also going to a place called Checkpoint Alpha which is at the border of East Timor and Indonesian West Timor, and we’re going to meet the Indonesian Army which is going to be a bit hard for me,” he said.
“I don’t hold them in high regard, because of what they’ve done to the East Timorese.”
The Timor veteran said he was especially looking forward to seeing what improvements the locals have made in the years since he was stationed there.
“Given enough time and enough exposure, tourism will be a big thing for them, they’ve already got a lot of people doing motels and resorts to get people to look at what the country has, which is the country itself,” Mr Brown said.
“The infrastructure was pretty much nonexistent after they got independence, which was about six months before I was first stationed there,” he said.
“The second time around there was a lot being done, but still a lot that needed to be done, so this time it’s going to be pretty amazing I reckon.”
“The country is amazing, and the sites you see, especially when you’re up in the highlands are unreal.”
As excited as he is, both to return to the country and to meet up with old friends, Mr Brown said he is aware of how challenging the tour could be.
Fortunately, Timor Awakening provides support both during and after the trip.
“I’ve been contacted by one of their personnel asking how I’ll go over there, and I said I won’t know until I get there, but it’s going to be emotional,” he said.
“She asked how I’m going to go when I get back and I said the place I work at has good things in place to look after our staff, but no doubt when I get back it’s going to be hard.”
Now the Timor Veteran works at a mental health service with the LHD, and he said he’s glad to have the chance to help others.
“With my work now, I can help ex-serving and currently serving personnel who are veterans, if they’re having a hard time getting used to civilian life, I can help them,” Mr Brown said.
“It’s something I want to do, I know since I’ve been out I still go through little things where I have to remind myself, I’m a civilian now,” he said.
“I’ve let other veterans I know, know that if they want to have a chat they can come see me.”
Fortunately for the ex-serviceman, the Timor Awakening trip leaves after ANZAC Day, an event he said he never misses.
“I get time off to do ANZAC Day ever year, it’s good to catch up with the veterans, all us guys who went to Timor and Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s good to catch up with them,” he said.
“I’m applying to become a member of the RSL, and then hopefully go on the board of the local sub-branch, get some new blood into it to keep it going.”