Home' Army News : October 15th 2009 Contents Why invest in Property?
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Australian Defence Force
PROMOTING MILITARY JUSTICE
Army October 15, 2009
By WO2 Graham McBean
WO2 Paul Holstein's holiday in para-
dise was cut short when he arrived in
Samoa the day before the tsunami.
The Brisbane-based 20 STA soldier
arrived in the Pacific nation's capital,
Apia, with his wife and friends less than
24 hours before the disaster, caused by
an undersea quake.
Fortunately, the tour group had organ-
ised to spend three days at Apia before
travelling to the Sea Breeze Resort on
Samoa's devastated southern coast.
WO2 Holstein said he and his wife
had socialised with their friends and
turned in about 4am local time, just
hours before the tragedy unfolded.
"We got woken up by the earthquake
about 7am and it was very, very strong,"
WO2 Holstein said. "It was that bad we
were literally hanging on to the walls -- it
was like a freight train rolled through the
The tremors continued for min-
utes before Samoa quietened and the
Australians ran for open ground.
"There were people running around
everywhere by that stage."
The tourists went to the devastated
southern coast and volunteered with the
In those first frantic hours they helped
distribute the immediate necessities such
as water, clothing and toiletry supplies
that began to arrive.
WO2 Holstein said they were even
called on to help with searching for rela-
When he returned to his hotel that
evening, the Australian High Commission
had posted a notice recommending tour-
ists return home.
Just two days after the tsunami, all
Australians were registered at the High
Commission and had secured flights
By WO2 Graham McBean
HIGH Commissioner to Samoa Matt
Anderson said the ADF, AusAid, AFP
and Government disaster response
had saved lives in the wake of the
country's worst national disaster.
ADF personnel were mobilised
within hours of the September 30
Samoan tsunami to assist in the first
About 20 villages and coastal
resorts on the country's south-east were
obliterated at 7am. Poignantly, travel
brochures still lay among the debris of
ADF aircraft, aeromedical teams
and ground support were put on notice
and then committed to the international
effort to bring emergency supplies to
the Pacific neighbour.
Six ADF and NZDF C-130s and
an RAAF C-17 were dispatched to
Samoa's Faleolo airport near the capi-
Tents, tarps, trunks, stretchers,
water and medical supplies supplied by
AusAid -- 20 tonnes of critical supplies
were on their way just over 24 hours
after the quake.
Mr Anderson said the speed, effec-
tiveness and professionalism of the
ADF effort was crucial.
"There are things -- very simple
things -- that I don't think the Australian
taxpayer gets. In the aftermath of a
major catastrophe like this it is often
the smallest of gestures -- water, cloth-
ing, food and shelter -- that affect some-
one's chances of survival," he said.
"There is a five-day-old up on one
of those hills and we were able to pro-
vide shelter to that baby."
A former Army engineer officer, Mr
Anderson said the ADF's transfer of
professionalism and experience into a
"can-do attitude" was impressive.
Within just two-and-a-half days
all injured Australians and those who
wanted to be evacuated had been repat-
riated. He said that effort would have
been impossible without the ADF.
"Increasingly, what the ADF brings,
because of its incredibly high opera-
tional tempo, is experience," he said.
"This has made me very, very proud
to be an Australian here. The speed
and effectiveness of the assistance we
brought to bear has saved lives,"
He said that attitude and profession-
alism was exactly what Samoa needed
in the days following the disaster.
"When you are trying to pick up
the pieces you need to be able to say to
someone 'I know this isn't part of your
job description but I need you to do it
anyway'," he said. "They go 'we're on
it' and that is what the ADF brings."
Soldier's narrow escape Response
Short stay: WO2
Paul Holstein outside
the Australian High
Commission in Samoa
after his holiday was cut
short by the Samoan
Photo by Cpl Chris Moore
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