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Solomon Islands' peacekeeper back home


Zoe Satherley
12 January 2009
A Lismore-based Southern Cross University Arts/Law student is adjusting to life incognito after serving as an Army Reservist in the Solomon Islands.

Private Adam Atkins - a part-time soldier with the 41st Battalion Royal NSW Regiment - and his digger mates, were feted as celebrities during the four-month tour of duty.

The soldiers recently returned from their peace and stability operation in the Solomons where they carried out regular patrols and low-level-threat security tasks.

“When on Army patrols, the local children would see us and often sing out ‘Army! Army! Australia! Australia!’” said Adam, relaxing at home over the summer holiday break.

“They treated us like celebrities and always wanted to come and shake our hands and thank us for being there. Now I’ve got to get used to not being special anymore!

“It was just amazing to see the goodwill of the people there towards the Australian Army. They appreciated our presence.”

Awarded the Australian Service Medal (ASM) for his contribution to the Regional Assistant Mission Solomon Islands (RAMSI), Adam spent almost six months overseas and in intensive training in Australia for the operation.

He performed a community engagement and linguist role after studying Lingua Franca (‘Pijin’), the local language, for several weeks before being deployed.

Adam said the hot and humid tropical conditions and tremendous thunderstorms made regular patrolling into sometimes dense pre-historic jungle ‘arduous, yet rewarding’.

“I visited many villages and got a real feel for the concerns of regular folk,” he said. “The air was so clean and the water streams were crystal clear.”

The Solomon Islands is a poor country of 500,000 people, with little infrastructure. Most people live by subsistence farming. Outside the capital city Honiara, there is no running water, electricity, sanitation or telephone connection.

Relics of tanks and sunken ships, left from major World War II battles waged on and around the Island of Guadalcanal, still remain.

Adam said he joined the Army Reserve in 2005 for ‘adventure, life skills and to serve my country’. In 2007 he participated in three months of army exercises as part of Rifle Company Butterworth Rotation 80 in Malaysia and Singapore.

He said he is looking forward to wearing his ASM medal on Anzac Day and returning to his University studies.

Photo: Private Adam Atkins during a patrol near the Eastern Guadalcanal village of Tetere. The company of predominantly 5th and 8th Brigade soldiers recently returned from the operation where they carried out patrolling and peacekeeping operations to maintain stability and calm. Picture: PTE Benjamin Borkowsky.