Wynyard’s son making a difference in the Pacific
21 July 2015
As Tasmania deals with the winter temperatures, Wynyard local Matthew Jetson, has been sweating it out in Bougainville with a team of engineers building school classrooms as part of Pacific Partnership 2015.
Pacific Partnership is an annual US-led humanitarian and civic assistance mission aimed at strengthening international relationships with partner and host nations in the Asia-Pacific regions.
This year, the missions are being conducted in countries spanning from Fiji to Vietnam.
Lieutenant Jetson, who has completed a civil engineering degree, graduating from the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA), comes from a family rich in military tradition. His brother graduated from ADFA and his grandfather was also in the Army.
Matthew said he is in command of 12 Australian Army tradesmen from 6CSR 17 Construction Squadron for his mission in Bougainville as well as responsibility for five tradesmen from the Timor Leste military.
"They have little or no English skills, but we are getting on very well with a combination of basic English, bad Tetum and hand signals," he said
Environmental challenges have been the biggest hurdle for Matthew's team.
"The climate is extremely hot and humid and the location of one of the schools means that all materials and equipment must be carried in by hand for the final few hundred metres after a rough four wheel drive transit up a mountain."
Pacific Partnership is in its 10th consecutive year and the cumulative effect for the communities which have received assistance is impressive.
Over the life of the 10-year mission, more than 270,000 people have been given medical attention and 180 engineering projects have provided much needed infrastructure in places where people would otherwise have nothing.
Matthew said every person on his team felt privileged to be a part of Pacific Partnership, making a difference in the lives of people less fortunate than themselves.
"We've taken time out to kick a ball and even read stories to the schoolkids," he said.
"In many ways, they live in paradise so we feel like if we can help them enjoy their own environment just a little more, we have done our job."