When members of the Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 Joint Task Force entered the gates of Thai Nguyen Secondary School in Nha Trang, Vietnam, they were surprised and humbled at the reception from more than 1000 cheering children.

The school’s courtyard was lined with bright lights and colourful decorations in preparation for performances from the students and the Australian Army Band.

The Deputy Commander of Joint Task Force 661, Captain Andrew Quinn, and 40 Australian Defence Force and US Marines personnel were welcomed at a formal ceremony.

“I think our relationship with be closer after tonight.”

The students performed cultural song and dance routines, which brought everyone to their feet to clap in unison.

The Australian Army Band perform for students and teachers of Thai Nguyen Secondary School in Nha Trang, Vietnam. Photo: Leading Seaman Steven Thomson

English teacher Nguyen vu Phuong nha said the students had prepared for a month and were ecstatic the day had finally arrived.

“We are so happy to welcome all the Australian and American defence people to our school,” Phuong nha said.

“My students are very excited to be joining the performance with Australia. I believe this is a good chance for us to learn more about the language, connect and share experiences.

“I think our relationship with be closer after tonight.”

Rather than the ships, helicopters and weaponry, the Vietnamese were most impressed that the Australians took the time to engage with and understand their culture. 

“We will return whenever you ask us to return or need help.” 

Australian Army Warrant Officer Class 2 Mat Dabinet, of the Australian Embassy in Vietnam, said the event gave back to the local community.

“Public diplomacy through community engagement is vital for regional activities as they allow members of the fleet – Navy, Army and Air Force – to directly enhance international relationships,” Warrant Officer Dabinet said.

“Everyone here tonight has had a wonderful time and will be talking about this visit for a long time – it’s been a resounding success.”

The Australian Army Band delivered an electric performance and the students joined them on stage for a singalong to close the show.

Captain Andrew Quinn receives a gift from the Principal of Thai Nguyen Secondary School in Nha Trang, Vietnam. Photo: Leading Seaman Steven Thomson

After he received a plaque in thanks, Captain Andrew Quinn also expressed his gratitude to the teachers and students.

“This is my second time to Vietnam; we love your beautiful coast, delicious food and drink, but most importantly we love the beautiful people like you all,” Captain Quinn said.

“We have been away from Australia for 100 days; we miss our families but are very happy to be in Vietnam with your family.

“So far we have visited Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Thailand, and we will soon visit Singapore and Indonesia before returning home. We are visiting these countries because we want to get to know you better and want you to know us better.

“We will return whenever you ask us to return or need help.”