Helping the home front during First Gulf War

This article has photo gallery Published on SGT Dave Morley (author), FSGT Kev Berriman (photographer), ABIS Kathy Tuddenham (photographer)

Lieutenant Commander Angella Hillis pictured reciting the 'Naval Ode' during the 2015 WRANS Memorial Service held at HMAS Harman. (photo: FSGT Kev Berriman)
Lieutenant Commander Angella Hillis pictured reciting the 'Naval Ode' during the 2015 WRANS Memorial Service held at HMAS Harman.

In the days before Skype and Facebook, deployed members and their families kept in touch by such primitive means as airmail letters and video tapes.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait 25 years ago, then Chief Writer Angella Hillis, a Brisbane-based personal services officer, was kept busy ensuring families of deployed members across Queensland and northern New South Wales were well supported while their loved ones were away.

Now a Lieutenant Commander, she said as it was the first major deployment since Vietnam and it took a while to sink in just how large the deployment was.

“While many families had experience of that conflict, the Gulf War brought with it new risks, new stresses and the explosion in information and speculation that came with modern telecommunications and media,” she said.

“Right from the first scud missile being fired, we watched the conflict unfolding on TV and dealt with calls from many families seeking support.

“Our social workers and family liaison officers worked tirelessly with the families to provide the support required.

“Regular morning teas were held at Moreton for the families to come in and meet each other and the staff, along with regional get-togethers.”

Lieutenant Commander Hillis said the community spirit was very obvious, with the local radio stations regularly broadcasting their support for service personnel and their families.

“A mix of companies, big and small, donated goods for the family morning teas and get-togethers and a Christmas hamper for each of the families.”

According to Lieutenant Commander Hillis, families of deployed members used creative ways to boost the morale of the deployed members.
 
“One wife organised a video session just before Christmas so as many families as possible could send a message to their deployed loved one,” she said.
 
“A copy was sent to each of the deployed ships to be played on Christmas Day.

“Families sent care packages and school children sent letters to the deployed sailors.”

Lieutenant Commander Hillis received a Flag Officer Navy Support Command Commendation for her efforts during the Gulf War and went on to serve on Operations Slipper, Catalyst and Relex.