Subject: NTN: Diggers build new facility

Diggers build new facility By RAJIV MAHARAJ April 21, 2003

Territory troops have revealed how they laboured in hot, sweltering conditions to build a new multi-purpose border control facility in East Timor.

Soldiers from the Engineer Group of the Darwin-based 5/7 Battalion, worked 12-hour days, six days a week, to construct a border control centre at Batugade, 5km from what will become the northernmost border of East Timor.

Major James Brownlie, the Officer Commanding the Engineer Group, said the work was "gruelling" but very satisfying.

"It was very demanding physically on the group -- long days of labour in very hot conditions.

"We had to keep a close eye on fatigue but now that it is finished, there's a lot of pride with all involved because the facility is something that will really help the people of East Timor," he said.

The facility, consisting of 11 corrugated iron and oregon timber buildings, will be used by Timorese officials to police movement to and from the border.

To be called the Joint Service Centre -- Batugade, the facility will provide office areas and accommodation for 80 people.

Engineer Group works officer Captain Jonathan Large said the buildings were designed with simplicity in mind.

"We wanted something that was functional, but wouldn't require too much maintenance once the project was completed.

"Our key principles were to ensure sustainability and the longevity of the facility post-completion," Capt Large said.

The construction team, commanded by Lt Michael Mumford, took less than 12 weeks to complete the project, funded by Britain for just under $100,000.

Sergeant Peter Piccinelli and Corporal Clayton Whitfield provided site management.

Cpl Whitfield said the facility was the biggest ever built by the Engineer Group in East Timor. He said 66 locals were employed, pumping lucrative US dollars into the local economy.

Soldiers were not allowed to drink alcohol at Batugade, a policy accepted by the rank and file as "part of the job".

"You get pretty thirsty, especially after you've been putting up roofs. We're all looking forward to a cold beer when we get back to Darwin," Cpl Whitfield said.

East Timor President Xanana Gusmao will officially open JSC-Batugade on April 28.

Northern Territory News

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