Subject: AAP: Escalators frighten former Timorese guerrillas

November 15, 2002, Friday

Escalators frighten former Timorese guerrillas

By Rosemary Desmond


Riding an escalator proved a greater challenge than military exercises for a group of East Timorese soldiers training in Australia.

The group arrived in Brisbane on Monday to gain an insight into soldiering Australian-style and to take part in an international military shooting competition starting next week.

But it was the wonders of city shopping centres which this week impressed former pro-independence guerilla fighter Damaso Belo (Damaso Belo).

Now a sergeant in East Timor's FDTL (Forca de Defesa de Timor Leste), Sergeant Belo had never been on a plane or train, eaten a soft-serve icecream or travelled on an escalator or in a lift.

He said today the Brisbane experience had put some members of the group into a "panic".

"We were afraid we would fall down," Sgt Belo told reporters.

They were content today to tackle the obstacle course at Gallipoli Barracks at Enoggera in Brisbane's west.

Commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel John Hutcheson said the group had handled the rigours of the course well because they had already seen the real thing back home.

"The reason we have obstacle courses is to replicate what we see out in the bush or the jungle," Lieut Colonel Hutcheson said.

"So one could argue that over the last 10 years, they had been through the real obstacle course."

The ex-FALINTIL guerrillas also had the advantage of being able to shoot straight, live in the field and to communicate with each other, Lieut Col Hutcheson said.

The group, which includes two women, will have the chance to further test their shooting skills against marksmen from other countries at the international Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting (AASAM) at the Greenbank range, west of Brisbane, starting next Friday.

The 10 instructors, including two women, will be able to go back to East Timor next month and train others.

Lieut Col Hutcheson said the Royal Queensland Regiment (RQR) 25th/59th Battalion had three advisers currently in East Timor helping set up its defence force which will eventually number around 3,000.

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