“You mean Pine Gap?” I asked. “Yes, that is the one, we have to stay clear of it, as do all aircraft,” the chief pilot said.
After an hour, the chief pilot took over from me, and he asked me to send the other pilot back, so he can do his job, and I gave a little laugh, as I exited the cockpit. “A bit over an hour to go, and we will be in Alice Springs,” I announced as I took my seat and secured the seatbelt.
“How was it flying this compared to your plane?” the Major asked me, “A heck of a lot more instruments than mine, but I think I did ok,” I replied, and I snoozed for the remainder of this leg of the trip. As we landed at Alice Springs airport, I opened my eyes.
“We have a vehicle ready to collect us here, to take us into town for some lunch at the Casino, while the flight crew rest and supervise the refuelling of the plane,” the major informed me, and I just smiled and nodded to say I understood.
After nearly two hours, we were in the air once more, and we now headed south-east for Canberra, with our eta being 1800 hours local time, because of the time difference. I was handed a copy of the NT New newspaper, with the headlines catching my attention.
“7 year burglary mystery solved.” “Police in Port Hedland announced today that an anonymous tip off lead to the recovery of over 3.3 million dollars worth of pearls and uncut diamonds, that were stolen from a Broome Jewellery store seven years ago. The jewellery store owner, who now lives in Port Hedland, was thrilled to have his property returned, and after paying back the money paid by the insurance company is settled, the owner intends to take a well earned holiday,” the article read.
After two hours, the Major sat next to me. “Just a few things to fill you in on for the next couple of days, tonight and for the following two nights, you will be hosted by my wife and I at our Canberra home.
At 0600 hours, the good sergeant major here will be driving you to Kapooka, which is our main basic training base, where you will do your 35 days of reservist basic training, after graduation, most soldiers are given orders of where they are to be posted.
You however will return to Canberra, where you will commence your final year of studies, staying at ADFA as an academy cadet officer, and remember if anyone asks anything about why you are here, tell them it is classified, and if they have an issue with that, refer them to me at DIO,” the Major said, “Understood, Sir,” I replied.
The two full days that I was in Canberra just flew by, after visiting the national war memorial I had a look around the capital, in between meetings with Major Hill. I spoke to Dad on the phone on the first night in Canberra, explaining, that I have been high jacked into the army, and that after doing a month of basic training, I will be continuing my university studies in Canberra.
After I arrived a Kapooka, I had very little time to do anything, but concentrate on my training, which wasn’t too hard, even if the sergeant major was keeping a close eye on me, and suddenly I was standing on the parade ground, attending my graduation ceremony.
When I saw Major Hill looking at me, he smiled and indicated to his left, and I looked that way and there in the crowd of parents and friends was Mum and Dad, who waved to me, and I smiled, as that was all I was allowed to do when on parade.
Once the ceremony was over, my parents raced towards me, and wrapped me in a tight hug. “If Pa was watching you now, I am sure he would be very proud of you son,” Dad said to me, which made me tear up a little, as I nodded my head in agreement.
“Major Hill informs us that you will be arriving in Canberra in a day or two, so will we get to see you before we head back to WA?” Mum asked me, “I am sure I will, I just have to wait for m orders,” I replied. “Which are right here, congratulations Private, you have completed basics,” Major Hill said as he approached, and I snapped to attention,
“At ease,’ the Major responded, Thankyou sir, but I had Smash watching me the whole time,” I replied, “Smash?” the Major enquired, “Yes sir, Sergeant Major Alex Shackleton, with an H on the end, just a nickname I thought of,” I replied, “Interesting, I have not heard of that before, but it is clever,” the Major said as I was handed my orders and read them.
“Catch the bus to Wagga-Wagga, and then the train will take you to Canberra, you can stay with us for the two days before you need to head to ADFA,” the Major said, “That is very kind of you, thank Mrs Hill for me,” I replied.
“We are booked on the 1 pm train to Canberra, is that the one you are taking son?” Dad asked me, and I looked at my orders again, “Yes, that is correct, three hours on train then an hour on a bus,” I replied, “Good, now Mrs Hill will collect you from the Canberra Civic Bus stop a bit before 1730 hours, see you then,” the Major said before saying farewell to my parents and dashing off.
After about half an hour of talking with my folks, they left the base, to return to their accommodation in Wagga-Wagga, and I headed to the barracks to start packing my gear, in preparation for the trip tomorrow, and I was looking forward to it, as it gave me a few hours with my parents, before I have to go to the Hill’s residence and onto ADFA – Australian Defence Force Academy.
I had a great chat with my parents on the train, but unfortunately we were separated by some distance on the bus, but I learnt that all of my siblings were missing me, and sent their love, and they were all having fun during the holidays.
When Mrs Hill collected me from the bus stop, I was expecting that we would be going directly to their home in the suburb of Campbell, which is next door to Duntroon, where ADFA and the UNSW is located, but instead Mrs Hill didn’t turn left at the roundabout, to go into the suburb of Campbell, but instead she continued on the main road of Morshead Drive, and a few minutes later we passed the turnoff to ADFA, so now I was wondering where the heck were we going.
“Ok, I give up, where are we going Ma’am?’ I asked, and Mrs Hill chuckled, when we did turn left on after passing Canberra Airport, I looked towards Mrs Hill again. “Don’t worry dear, we are all going on a short trip,” Mrs Hill said to me, and as we drove along the east side of the main runway of Canberra Airport, I was starting to wonder, where we are going.
Turning left again one block after the next roundabout and a short while later I spotted a sign on the side of the building – RAAF 34 Squadron. “We are going on another plane trip? Where too Mrs Hill?” I asked, and all I got was a smile, as she turned again and pulled up outside a building that said “VIP Terminal”.
I helped Mrs Hill with unloading two of her bags as well as my own, and we headed into the terminal, where Major Hill was speaking to other officers and plain clothes man. “Here they are, did you have a good trip Private Kendrik?” the Major asked me, “Sir, yes sir,” I responded, as I dropped my bags, and snapped to attention and saluted.
“At ease Private, “You already know Sergeant Major Shackleton; the other gentlemen are Minister of Defence, the Honourable Gordon Long and Chief of Army, Brigadier Anthony Triggs,” the Major said, “It is an honour to meet you both sirs,” I responded before saluting then shaking their hands.
“Right we are just waiting for four more passengers, and then we can be on our way,” the Major said, as the doors to the terminal opened and in walked my parents. “Ok, sir, what the heck is going on here?” I asked, and Smash laughed.
“Private Kendrik you have been Smash, hijacked to attend a VIP ceremony at Corunna Air Base in Western Australia,” the Sergeant Major responded, and I went all red when he said that which made the Major laugh too.
“Let me explain, Smash is the initials and nickname of the sergeant major here, with the nickname thought of by the private here,” Major Hill explained to the Minister and Army Chief.
We soon boarded a RAAF Bombardier Challenger 650 aircraft, with a female steward in Airforce uniform assisting us, as we all took our seats in the very comfortable executive jet that seats 18 passengers, which is a few metres bigger and can travel much further than the Beechcraft we flew in just over a month ago.
When a limo pulled up near the aircraft, with Australian Flags on the front, I watched as the doors opened and a Lady and a man stepped out, and walked to the steps. “All stand for the arrival of His Excellency the Governor General of Australia and his wife,” Smash announced from the doorway as he snapped to attention, and we all stood up.
With two seats on the left side and one seat on the right, in the centre of the plane and one seat on each side near the front and the back, Mum, Dad and were seated on the left side, facing each other, while I sat opposite on the right, with my back facing the small galley area.
Once the dignitaries had taken their seats in the centre of the plane, with the Minister and Chief of Army sitting opposite the Governor general, we all seated and buckled up, as the cabin door was closed and the engines started up, and Sergeant Major Shackleton took the seat opposite me, and I lets out a small groan, which made Smash chuckle.
Once we were in the air, we were able to relax a little, well I thought so. “Be a dear will you please Private and help me with preparing and serving pre-dinner snacks,” the steward asked me, and once again I groaned, making Smash chuckle again.
“By the way sergeant major, the Major has kindly arranged for you to take a trip with me in my plane when we arrive in Port Hedland,” I said before disappearing into the galley area, leaving my parents and the major all laughing, and I took a quick look and saw that the sergeant major was not looking at all well, and he made a dash to the bathroom, which brought more laughter.
“You are a cruel man Private Kendrik, we all know about your fancy flying and barrel rolls,” the steward said to me, as she began to show me what to do in the galley. “I try to be ma’am,” I replied with a huge grin on my face, which made the steward laugh too.
Once I had helped with service of snacks, I took a seat again, as we would be having dinner, while flying over Ayers Rock, better known as Uluru, as the sun is setting to the west. This time instead of 5 ½ hours of flying time, we would only be flying for 4 ½ hours, with no stop required at Alice Springs.
We would be travelling to Broome for most of the passengers to stay overnight, while I am flown to Port Hedland, to stay overnight, so I can fly my plane to Corunna in the morning, with instructions to land there no later than 0800, which meant I had to leave Port Hedland at dawn at 0530 hours, just as the jet is flying back to Broome to collect the passengers.
Hotel accommodation had been arranged for me in South Hedland by Major Hill, so when I arrived there shortly after 2100 hours local time, I had a shower and went straight to bed. The next morning, after I had dressed in my casual clothes, I grabbed my overnight bag, and called a taxi, who took me to the airport, via a place to get a takeaway breakfast.
When I walked into the private terminal, the familiar face of the chief mechanic was there to greet me. “My word you look fit as a malley bull, good morning to you soldier man, your plan is serviced and ready to go for your flight home,” he said to me. “Thanks mate, you are a genius, have a good day,” I replied.