DAD’S BACK, WITH A HEAVY PACK

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - LY­DIA KELLNER

THERE were plenty of hugs and kisses among the ap­plause as Townsville sol­diers were re­united with their fam­i­lies af­ter be­ing de­ployed to Afghanistan for the past six months.

From hand­painted signs, bal­loons and home­made cam­ou­flage out­fits worn by the chil­dren of the re­turn­ing sol­diers, Townsville’s de­fence com­mu­nity pulled out all the stops to en­sure the vet­er­ans re­ceived the ul­ti­mate welcome home.

About 100 Force Pro­tec­tion El­e­ment 3 sol­diers ar­rived at Townsville Air­port yesterday morn­ing fol­low­ing the suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of their op­er­a­tional de­ploy­ment to Afghanistan.

Since de­ploy­ing in Jan­uary 2015, FPE- 3 has pro­vided pro­tec­tion to Aus­tralian train­ers and ad­vis­ers dur­ing the cur­rent as­sis­tance mis­sion in Afghanistan in sup­port to Afghan Na­tional Se­cu­rity Forces.

Of­fi­cer com­mand­ing FPE- 3, Ma­jor Matthew Di­rago, said de­spite the war in Afghanistan com­ing to an of­fi­cial end on De­cem­ber 31 last year the job had re­mained dan­ger­ous.

“What we’re do­ing is in a dan­ger­ous place,’’ Maj Di­rago said.

“It’s hard ( to be away from loved ones), although it’s harder for the fam­i­lies at home.

“But days like to­day make it all worth­while where you get to see the smiles on ev­ery­one’s faces.”

A spe­cial Welcome Home Pa­rade will be held at Lavarack Bar­racks next Fri­day.

Pic­tures: FIONA HARD­ING

PROUD DAY: Cap­tain Matthew Stevens is wel­comed home by baby Lilly and son Ja­cob, 4, while Emma Evans ( inset) is happy to see boyfriend Pri­vate Jesse Forbes back again.

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