Sergeant Tracey Knighton from Western Australia has made friends all over the world throughout her 24 years of service as a logistician in the Army.
Despite a significant language barrier, the unlikeliest of friendships was struck during a game of charades while on Operation Slipper in Afghanistan in 2005.
Sergeant Knighton deployed to Afghanistan with the first rotation of Special Air Service Regiment post 9/11 to set up the base for the coalition.
“I befriended a local Afghan man through the international language of charades,” Sergeant Knighton said.
“I never learnt his name, however, through the game I did learn he was married with a son and had another baby on the way.
“We even exchanged Christmas presents. I gave him soap and chocolate and he gave me a sparkly green hair tie, which I still have.”
When Sergeant Knighton deployed again to Afghanistan in 2012, she was fortunate to see her friend again.
“When I went back the second time, the base was huge, but the best part was I saw my Afghan friend,” she said.
“We hugged and he told me his baby was born healthy and was now at school.”
Seeing the progress made towards building a more secure and democratic Afghanistan since her first deployment was extremely satisfying for Sergeant Knighton.
“As community needs and expectations change so too does the Army who represents it.”
The experienced logistician first joined the Army in 1996, keen to make a difference, which she has had ample opportunity to do.
“I wanted to do a job where I could help people and be able to do an array of different things,” she said.
In addition to Afghanistan, Sergeant Knighton has deployed in support of the International Force East Timor peace-keeping operation in 2001 and to the Soloman Islands in 2007.
Her experiences have made her proud to wear the slouch hat and to continue the tradition of service that her family knows well.
Sergeant Knighton’s grandfather, Private Robert Baker, was a WWII veteran who served in the 2nd/31st Australian Infantry Battalion.
Her great-uncle Ray served in Vietnam, her father was a national serviceman and her stepfather deployed numerous times to the Pacific region with the Royal Australian Navy.
She sees the slouch hat as the link between our veterans and current serving members as well as a symbol of what it means to be an Australian soldier.
“You know when you see the slouch hat that you are looking at a soldier who will always lend a helping hand,” Sergeant Knighton said.
She sees this every day in the Darwin community where she is currently posted.
As Anzac Day approaches, Sergeant Knighton believes it is important to tell the stories of those in uniform today so that people understand that the Army is a reflection of the community.
“As community needs and expectations change so too does the Army who represents it,” she said.
Sergeant Knighton is currently posted to 1st Brigade’s 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, as the Signals Platoon Quarter Master.