In the grand scheme of deployments, 10 days is not a long time. But signallers from 127th Signals Troop made the most of their deployment to Papua New Guinea, going above and beyond what was required for Project Tok Tok Longela.

Arriving at Manus Island on April 19, the contingent started work at the Lombrum Naval Base to conduct maintenance and technical inspections of the communication systems installed by the Australian Defence Force in 2021 under the Defence Cooperation Program.

Contingent Commander Lieutenant Ellen Skerritt said their role in delivering training packages in maintenance and radio operation was well received by the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) troops.

“The aim of the training was to reach as many PNGDF personnel as we could to enable the communications centre (COMMCEN) to grow in both its numbers and their general knowledge,” Lieutenant Skerritt said.

“The maintenance training package, delivered by Lance Corporal Carl Tangredi, and the radio operators training packages delivered by Corporal Sean Parratt and Signaller Michael Tongue, were really well received, in particular the practical demonstrations.

“We found that the COMMCEN operators had become well versed in the systems and knew parts of the system that could be improved upon, so we learned a lot, too.”

For project 2IC Corporal Blake Smythe, the learning opportunities were invaluable. 

“I'm constantly trying to learn how to be a section commander with a new team, in a highly specialised unit, very quickly,” he said.

“The maintenance project in PNG gave me the opportunity to trial different things in a low-risk environment, and I've learnt a lot because of it.  

 “Apart from the maintenance, the other biggest factor was strengthening our relationship with the PNGDF and the local population.”

Lieutenant Skerritt said the highlight of the trip was a donation to a local hospital.

“One of the members of the contingent had an idea to pitch in to go and buy stationery equipment and basic sanitary supplies to give to the nurses of the local hospital to distribute to the patients,” she said.

“It brightened up their day and it felt like the right thing to do to.”