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Outback calls "water" soldier

Monday, 6th July, 2009

It's been a few years since Paul Obree said goodbye to Broken Hill High School, but he still likes a beer or two at the Mulga hotel when he comes home.

"My parents Beverley and Robert still live in Broken Hill, except now they're grandparents," said Paul last week. "After school I started as an apprentice fruit grower - they call it a horticulturalist these days," he said. "After that, and becoming a chef, I worked a few places before I came back to Broken Hill and drove road trains. "But I'd always wanted to be a plant operator since I watched people dig up the road in front of the house when I was five. "I joined the Army Reserve in 1983 and then switched to the regulars five years ago. I'm now a Sapper in the Royal Australian Engineers. "I'm now one of the Army's water soldiers. I'm based at Ross Island near Townsville and we do amphibious operations in small boats. It's very different from Broken Hill!

"We've just finished trialing improvements in how we get fuel from ship to shore - it was in Cowley Beach in far north Queensland. The fuel was pumped from a ship into this 30m-long sausage-shaped bladder, then towed to shore and pumped into fuel bladders on the beach. "The system had been bought during East Timor but we were testing some improvements. "My job was to build the bunting for the fuel pods on the beach with my front-end loader, and to fix up the roads in the training area. "You know what they say about Queensland - beautiful one day, perfect the next - but pouring down the third! It rained solid for three weeks. I ended up working on those roads more that anyone had expected.

"But I still get home a couple of times a year for a few weeks to catch up with mum and dad. Grandpa used to love the Hillside Hotel (which is now closed), but a beer is always good at the Democratic Club or the Mulga Tavern!

"It's always good to be home."

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