Once we had finished, Dad insisted on paying for it all, and I went into the change room and changed into the trousers, T shirt, green socks and boots, before we exited the shop with my duffle bag of gear, and ten minutes later Dad dropped me off at the front gate of the Depot, where the same soldier was waiting, and he looked me up and down, and smiled before opening the gate.
“You could almost pass as an Army soldier, but that haircut will not do,” the soldier said, and I smiled, “I presume you have the answer to that do you sergeant?’ I asked, and he laughed, as he closed and locked the gate behind us.
“Major Hill has already arrived and is waiting for you in the same room as yesterday,” the sergeant said to me, and I headed in that direction, and knocked on the door. “Enter” a loud voice bellowed, which made me jump before entering, where I found two men inside.
“Jexon Kendrik reporting as requested sir,” I said to the senior officer in the room, who was a Major by rank, who smiled as he approached, “Welcome and thanks for coming Jexon, I am AK Hill, and the man with the big voice is Sergeant Major Alex Shackleton,” the Major said as he shook my hand, before I shook the Sergeant Major’s hand.
“Jexon, take a seat and we will begin… the reason you are coming back with us, is that by no fault of your own, you have acquired a lot of information, of which a lot of it is still classified, the only way we can resolve this problem is that we ask you to voluntarily join the Army Reserves.
“We already know a great deal about you, as our security services have completed a screen of your full personal history, and it includes the joy ride you gave the Police Sergeant from Marble Bar, two weeks ago,” Major Hill said to start off. “I admit that was intentional sir, he was the school bully when I was at school in Broome, and you could say that it was pay back for what he did to me and other younger students at the school,” I said.
“I see, well that would explain a lot, does anyone else know about that real reason?’ Major Hill asked, “Yes sir, the Police District Superintendent here in Port Hedland is aware of it, he commented that it was the best laugh he has had in a long time, and my mother said I was very naughty, but it was a hoot watching him staggering away from my plane,” I replied, and the Major and Sergeant Major both smiled.
“Right, because this is special circumstances, you will be undergoing four weeks of basic training, you already look very fit and trim, and I believe the Sergeant outside can fix your hair style. As well as your basic training, which will be done by the good sergeant major here, you will be attending a number of lectures each day, and you will be attending a number of meetings each week. Any questions?” the Major said.
“Wow, I have suddenly been drafted,” I commented, and the sergeant major chucked, “You bet you have Mr Kendrik and you will soon find out all about it,” he said to me and I swallowed in fright. “His bark is worst than his bite so you will be fine,” the Major commented, “That is what I am afraid of sir,” I replied.
“Now apart from the degree in Veterinary Science, you are also doing a degree in Zoology, is that correct?” the Major asked, “That is correct sir, this is my final year this coming year,” I replied. “Good, now once you have completed basic training, we will be asking you to transfer your studies to UNSW Canberra Campus.
From there you can complete your two degrees as well as doing the one year Defence Graduate Programme, as a cadet officer, where on completion you will graduate as a junior officer in the Army Reserves,” the Major announced.
“Wow, I had no idea that this would ever happen to me, but also in a way I am glad, as my grandfather was an Army mechanic during the war, and he served at the Corunna Airbase, that is why Dad and I know about the bunker, well Dad knew about it, I just found it accidentally,” I said.
“That takes us to that point, as a result of you knowing about a lot of classified information, the COA –Chief of Army and MOD = Minister of Defence have decided to give you a level one security clearance, which is the lowest level of security clearance, and all the screen vetting has already been completed, and you are cleared to be given that level of clearance,” the Major announced, as he handed me an envelope.
I tipped it upside down and an ID card on a clip fell out, and I stared at it for a moment, as it had the Royal Australian Army name and logo, a photo of me that looked identical to my pilot licence photo, my full name and some letters and numbers below my name.
“That is your own Enlistment and Identification Number, which you will need to memorise, now that all of the official stuff is over, the very small ones, ASC-1 is your security clearance. Did you bring the items that you secured?” the Major asked, and I retrieved the photo frame and the container with the dog tags in them. “Good, I like what you did with the message, we will keep them secure until they are declassified, then they will probably end up in the National Army Museum.
Now, we have a jet waiting for us at the airport, ready to take us to the airbase,” the Major announced. I gathered all my luggage and followed them outside where an Army vehicle was parked at the front, and we all climbed in, and not long after we arrived at the airport, and were dropped off outside the private aviation building which is where I have my plane stored.
“Hello Jexon, are you in the Army now?” the chief mechanic said when he saw us enter, “Yes, I am, but I ask that you not mention it to anyone, as I am on a special assignment,” I replied, “Not a problem, lips are sealed, see you when you get back,” the mechanic said.
“Can you take good care of my plane for me, I may be gone for a while,” I asked at the last moment, “Sure mate, not a problem,” he replied, as he waved and we exited the building and onto the taxiway, where a Beechcraft King Air twin prop plane was standing by.
“Is that you plane, the cream coloured biplane, Tango Juliet 1959?” the sergeant major asked, as he looked out the window as we took off and turned to head south-east. “Yes, that is my girl, a 1959 Thuxton Jackaroo, a variant of the Tiger Moth,” I replied smiling as I looked at my plane one last time, and silently said farewell to her.
“Nice plane, what is the range on a plane like that?’ the sergeant major asked, “About 400 kilometres at a cruising speed of 82 knots,” I replied, as we climbed higher, and continued southwards, and I closed my eyes for a moment to rest, knowing that I have a long day ahead of me. Less than half an hour later, I felt the plane starting to descend so I looked out the window.
“You can see the base now,” I commented, and both the Major and the sergeant major looked out the window, “Wow, that is a lot bigger than I imagined,” the major commented, as I unsecured my seatbelt and stepped towards the cockpit.
“Flight officer, when I last checked the winds were going to be south-westerly today, so land on runway one, from the east, which is the longest of the two airfields,” I suggested, “You are a pilot?” one of the pilots asked, “Yes I have a commercial light aircraft pilots licence, and I own a Thuxton Jackaroo Biplane,” I replied, oh so you are the guy who gave a police officer a few barrel rolls,” one of the pilots said, ‘Yep, that’s me,” I replied, “take a seat till we have landed please,” the pilot said, so I returned to my seat and buckled in.
Once on the ground, I returned to the cockpit. At the end of the runway, take a sharp right turn, onto the taxiway, towards the sheds at the end of the other runway,” I said to the pilots, and a few minutes later, we stopped near the operations shed.
“Welcome to Corunna Airbase, current population one,” I said as I returned to the main cabin, “Cheeky sod,” I heard the sergeant major say, and I just smiled. Once outside, the heat hit us in the face, because of the temperature difference from the air-conditioned aircraft, which is far better than my plane.
“Wow, that is some heat you pack out here in the west,’ the major commented, as we walked down the steps onto the taxiway. “On average it is about 38 degrees Celsius, during the summer months, but I am used to it, just grab some water to keep hydrated,” I commented.
“This is quite some setup here,” the major commented as he looked around, “Yes sir, but it was the boys back in WW2 who built this base, I am just putting it back the way it originally was during the war,” I said.
“You have done a wonderful job of getting it to what it is now, I am very impressed,” the major stated, “Thankyou sir, we have a team of builders who have been assisting us with the work, and Dad is currently working on getting bits and pieces from that era, to fill in some of the empty space, and I presume you already know about our surprise main attraction,” I said in reply.
“I do indeed, how many here know about it?” the Major asked, “Just Mum, Dad and myself, that is it, not even the neighbour knows about that,” I replied. After about half an hour of looking around, the Major stopped beside the old jeep located behind the operations shed.
“Is this the place?” the Major asked me quietly, and I nodded my head yes before walking on, and the Major looked around the jeep a little bit before heading back towards the aircraft. Once inside with the door secured, “We have a 2 ½ hour flight to Alice Springs, where we will stop for an hour or so, before continuing on to Canberra, which is a three hour flight,” the Major announced.
“Sir, if it is alright with you, the chief pilot has requested that Mr Kendrik take second chair for the first leg across the continent,” the junior flight officer said to the major, who looked at me, and I just shrugged my shoulders, partly because I was surprised by the request.
“If he is qualified to fly a plane like this then yes go ahead,” the major said, and I smiled as I made my way to the cockpit and sat in the second chair, and strapped myself in. “Can we do a low fly over Corunna Downs homestead airfield, it is 6.5 kilometres south-east of here,” I asked the chief pilot.
“Sure, you know the way, so you can take off and lead us that way,” he replied as I put on the headset, and I checked all the instruments and began the checklist, and when I had finished the chief pilot smiled and nodded his head. “Port Headland Air Traffic Control, this is RAAF flight 094 departing from Corunna Airbase, destination is Alice Springs, requesting short deviation to Corunna Downs, over,” I said into the microphone.
“Roger RAAF 094, you are cleared to take off on runway one, to Corunna Downs and onto Alice Springs, have a safe flight Jex, over,” came the response, and the chief pilot looked at me in surprise. “They know my voice, because I have been flying a fair bit in the past two weeks,” I explained, as I checked the display one last time before releasing the brakes, and taxiing towards runway two, and turning onto runway one, I gave full throttle.
“Nice takeoff, gear up,” the chief pilot said to me, as I did a 180 degree turn and flew over the base, and headed for the Corunna Downs homestead, which we flew straight over, and I adjusted our direction for a heading straight to Alice Springs.
“Even though we are the Airforce, we are still not allowed to pass over the secret communications base south of Alice Springs, so adjust you’re heading to 20 clicks south of the base,” the chief pilot said to me.