After more than 10 years in the Navy, Leading Seaman Leigh Gough dusted off his tool belt to return to his former trade during Operation Fiji Assist 20-21.
Originally from St Clair in Sydney, Leading Seaman Gough was an apprentice carpenter before he joined the Navy.
Now a combat systems operator in HMAS Adelaide, Leading Seaman Gough worked with Army sappers from the 6th Engineer Support Regiment in Fiji repairing buildings damaged by Tropical Cyclone Yasa.
Leading Seaman Gough said returning to the skills from his former trade was a relatively easy thing to do.
“Carpentry is the type of skill you don’t forget,” he said.
“Having the sappers on the ground helped me get straight back on the tools.
“I gained a lot of experience working with the team.
“I’ve been able to make great friendships that will continue after this operation.”
Operation Fiji Assist was Leading Seaman Gough’s first overseas deployment and his work included repairing damaged schools, wash stations and roofs.
“I am very proud that I was able to leave a lasting impact on the ground,” he said.
“Being there and seeing how happy we made the Fijian children is a memory that will last forever.”
He deployed on December 19 and, along with 600 ADF personnel who worked with the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, returned to Sydney in the ship on February 2.
He said the hardest part was not being able to spend Christmas at home with his wife, Sarah, and their two daughters, Charlotte and Evelyn.
“This is the first time I have been away from my family over Christmas; not being able to see my wife and kids was hard,” he said.
During the operation Army and Navy personnel:
- helped repair 32 schools
- provided humanitarian relief supplies for building materials, tents, medical supplies, solar lighting and hygiene kits
- distributed education supplies to enable children to return to school
- delivered 165 tonnes of relief stores and supplies
- generated and distributed more than over 900,000 litres of clean drinking water.