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Regional Manager Outer Sydney
December 10, 2009
By LTCOL Rob Barnes
IT WILL be Christmas with a
difference for three 'Old Salts'
serving in the Middle East this
year as they swap the more
familiar battleship grey for
With almost a century of
service between them, CPOs
Dave Wheeler, Jack Onaca
and Rocky Stone are currently
deployed with JTF633. CPOs
Onaca and Stone are posted to
the HQ, while CPO Wheeler
is the only sailor posted to the
Force Communications Unit.
"It'll certainly be a different
Christmas in more ways than
one," CPO Wheeler said.
An ardent fan of Patrol Boat
while at school in the early
1980s, CPO Wheeler joined the
Navy in 1986 to go to sea.
"Over the years I've certain-
ly been to sea, but this is my
first land-based deployment,"
"While it's been great, it's
also been a long time away
from family, so it will be good
to enjoy the company of my fel-
low chiefs this Christmas," he
Desert Christmas in MEAO
For CPO Onaca, who joined the
Navy 10 years earlier in 1976, this is
his second Christmas in the MEAO.
"I spent Christmas 2007 on the
Iraqi oil rigs, which was a unique
experience," CPO Onaca said.
"This time around the living condi-
tions are a little more comfortable."
Meanwhile, for CPO Stone who
last served in the region in HMAS
Brisbane in 1981, it will be his first
Christmas on operations since joining
the Navy as a Junior Recruit in 1967.
"I've been at sea and on duty at
home at Christmas before, but this will
be the first time while deployed on
operations," CPO Stone said.
"It will be great to enjoy Christmas
with my colleagues from all the
CHRISTMAS SPIRIT: L-R CPOs Rocky Stone, Jack Onaca and Dave
Wheeler will celebrate Christmas in the MEAO this year.
Photo: SGT Rob Nyffenegger
By LT Madeline Denholm
THERE will be all the traditional trap-
pings of Christmas when Australia's
Servicemen and women deployed
to Oruzgan Province in southern
Afghanistan celebrate the special day.
There is even the chance there could
be snow on the ground at Tarin Kowt and
in surrounding areas.
In keeping with tradition, senior offic-
ers will serve enlisted personnel their
Christmas lunch at Forward Operating
LSCD Jeremy Thomas is looking for-
ward to the big day.
"I think the roast dinner is going to go
down an absolute treat," he said.
"Good food is definitely what we
want and we always enjoy having a few
beers as well."
LSCD Thomas is a member of
Sydney-based AUSCDT One. In the 10
years he has been in the Navy, he has
spent three Christmases away from his
"It's definitely the hardest day of the
year," he said.
"I'm used to missing birthdays and
other family celebrations, but Christmas
is definitely difficult. But we're all here
together and we're all missing our fami-
lies, so we make the most of it and I'm
sure there'll be games and a whole heap
of celebrations going on here."
All the trappings
Sailor looks forward to feast in Oruzgan
NEW FRIENDS: Getting into the spirit of Christmas at Forward Operating
Base Ripley in southern Afghanistan are (L-R) FSGT Philip Barnes, LSCD
Jeremy Thomas and PTE Gary Drennan.
Photo: SGT Christopher Rohweder
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