Breaking new ground
A HERVEY Bay primary school teacher is breaking new ground in army ranks.
Kawungan State School teacher Robert Brennan is commanding the International Stabilisation Force’s ANZAC Infantry Company, a combined Australian-New Zealand security force stationed in East Timor, at the request of the East Timor government.
The 43-year-old reserve soldier is officer commanding of the first reservist unit taken from Australia to carry out peace-keeping and stabilising duties in the small but troubled country 640km north-west of Darwin.
He has worked his way through the ranks since first joining the army reserve in 1991 as an infantryman.
“Commanding a rifle company is very different from teaching a class of 28 Year 6 students,” the Maryborough native said.
He was educated at Albert State and Maryborough High schools before training to teach at Toowoomba.
“He has always wanted to be the best at what he could be,” proud mum Betty said.
“He started as a health and PE teacher but he always did a little extra.”
Robert’s parents Morrie and Betty are now retired and still live in Maryborough.
Wife Vicki lives in Hervey Bay with their two daughters who are still in school. Their older sons, aged 21 and 19, are army regulars in Melbourne.
When eldest son Chris turned 21 on Remembrance Day, his dad was a world away, among 140 army reservists from Queensland’s 11 Brigade.
“Over here, my job includes the planning, co-ordination, tasking and overwatch of all missions assigned to ANZAC Company,” Robert said.
“The people of East Timor are extremely welcoming.
“They genuinely appreciate the assistance that the International Stabilisation Force provides.
“Whenever elements of my company group visit regional areas the children are particularly excited and very inquisitive.
“Our soldiers live and work in close proximity with each other for extended periods doing some fairly arduous tasks.
“The bonds we forge now will last a lifetime.”
Since he originally signed up 19 years ago “for the mateship and fitness”, Robert’s military career has seen him work as far away as Malaysia and Singapore.
Thanks to the support of Education Queensland Mr Brennan will return to his teaching job when he finishes his deployment mid next year.
“He’s been away from home a lot in the last two years,” his wife said.
“He has never looked back since signing up. He’s always been interested in looking for new avenues to teamwork.
“And obviously his involvement has been a positive for the family with the two boys also joining the army.”