Small world on deployment

Published on

Location(s): Vanimo, Papua New Guinea

Topic(s): Exercise PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP, HMAS Tobruk (II)

Sapper Wael Abou Hamad with Lieutenant Daniel Khayat on the forecastle of HMAS Tobruk. (photo: LAC David Cotton)
Sapper Wael Abou Hamad with Lieutenant Daniel Khayat on the forecastle of HMAS Tobruk.

It’s common for former school friends and even siblings to cross paths in the Royal Australian Navy as passing ships or exercises allow people to catch up.

Australian Army Sapper Wael Abou Hamad and a Royal Australian Navy Officer Lieutenant Daniel Khayat have met up again on HMAS Tobruk, 10 years after their first meeting and half a world away.

The pair are both deployed on PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP 2013, a US-sponsored humanitarian and civic assistance mission aimed at strengthening international relationships with partner and host nations in the Asia-Pacific.

HMAS Tobruk’s mission is to Papua New Guinea.

The pair had just finished daily physical training when they started talking and realised that they had met before.

“I noticed Abou Hamad’s name on his uniform and asked him where he was from,” Lieutenant Khayat said.

“We both realised that we were from southern Lebanon and had moved to Australia as refugees in 2003.

“We talked a bit more and we realised that we had gone from Lebanon to Israel as refugees on 22 May 2000.”

After comparing stories, Lieutenant Khayat and Sapper Abou Hamad determined that they had even arrived in Australia together on the same plane.

“Our families were the only ones to immigrate to Australia on the flight from Israel so we had travelled together and I had also gone to school with Wael’s sister in Israel,” Lieutenant Khayat said.

“After fleeing the war in Lebanon we spent time in Israel as refugees,” Sapper Abou Hamad said.

“My family settled in Melbourne and Lieutenant Khayat’s family settled in Sydney.”

The unlikely meeting of the two former refugees many years later has been surprising for both men.

“I was delightfully surprised when we the put the dots together,” Sapper Abou Hamad said.

“The world all of sudden felt very small and we’ve had plenty of conversations since.

“I feel very proud to meet someone who shares my own background and love for Australia and who works to protect it.”

Sapper Abou Hamad is one of a team of Australian Army engineers from the 6th Engineering Support Regiment deployed to refurbish schools in the Papua New Guinea townships of Wewak and Vanimo.

He will transfer to the USS Pearl Harbor to deploy to the Samoa, Tonga and the Marshall Islands then transfer to HMNZS Canterbury and deploy to Kiribati and Solomon Islands for further engineering projects in the Pacific Partnership program.

Lieutenant Kahyat is HMAS Tobruk’s Assistant Marine Engineering Officer and is responsible for monitoring the materiel condition of the ship and its machinery.

He is also the Divisional Officer for 25 sailors, and has deployed ashore in Wewak to attend a community health fair at a local school. Lieutenant Kahyat will return to Fleet Base East in Sydney with HMAS Tobruk in July.

Imagery is available on the Australian Defence Image Library at http://images.defence.gov.au/S2013057.