Navy medic shows resilience in trans-continental trek

Published on LEUT Andrew Ragless (author), CPOIS Damian Pawlenko (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Albatross, HMAS Stirling, HMAS Creswell, Legacy

Chief Petty Officer Tristan 'Banger' Harris with his walking buggy at HMAS Stirling. (photo: CPOIS Damian Pawlenko)
Chief Petty Officer Tristan 'Banger' Harris with his walking buggy at HMAS Stirling.

Following six months on the road, 4358 kilometres, and nine pairs of joggers, Chief Petty Officer Medic Tristan Harris has successfully trekked across Australia. 

The epic journey, which started at naval base HMAS Stirling on the west coast concluded on the white sands of Jervis Bay in Royal Australian Naval College, HMAS Creswell.

The adventure has also raised more than $13,000 and counting for veteran’s families’ charity, Legacy Australia.

Chief Petty Officer Harris, now a case manager at the Personnel Support Unit in HMAS Albatross, credited the overwhelming support of family, friends and complete strangers in completing such a challenge. 

“The best part of the journey was by far the people I met,” he said. 

“In particular the generosity shown by complete strangers.

“There are so many acts of kindness, and so many people to thank, it’s impossible to list them all,” he said.

“But certain things come to mind, such as the time I pitched my tent near a camper van on the eastern edge of the Nullarbor.

“After I got settled the couple inside came over with a beer and a plate full of oysters.”

Chief Petty Officer Harris, recently retired from the full-time service decided on the adventure following his experiences in three Middle East deployments, one event in Iraq in particular. 

“I assisted a US medical team following a terrorist attack on the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad,” he said.

“Despite some incredible acts of courage, the bombing claimed the lives of 22 people and I found myself thinking, who would look after my family if something happened to me? 

“I wanted to raise awareness and funds for Legacy and that’s when I started to think, ‘what can I do?’”

Chief Petty Officer Harris, who lost a staggering 27 kilograms on the journey, suffered blisters, shin splints, a torn hamstring and back pain, but said the obstacles were overcome with positive thinking.

“In the first few weeks of the journey I was posting these ailments on Facebook,” he said. 

“They were debilitating until I realised I couldn’t afford to dwell on them any longer. 

“I stopped posting these on Facebook and then it all turned around.”

He said the training, development and peer support he received throughout his Navy career prepared him well for the adventure. 

“In some respects, it was still harder because I didn’t have the support of my mates which you do have on deployment,” he said.

“But I never lost sight of the ultimate goal and the reasons behind what I was doing.

“And I did it in the knowledge that all my family and friends, although they weren’t with me, were backing me all the way.”

Chief Harris is still accepting donations on behalf of Legacy Australia.  Donations can be made at: