Soldier finds meaning in home away from home

Department of Defence

This year, Corporal Danielle Laidlaw commemorated Anzac Day with her “new family”.

The warehouse and ammunition quartermaster is deployed on Operation Accordion to Camp Baird, Australia’s main base in the Middle East.

As a member of the catafalque party during the Headquarters Middle East Anzac Day Dawn Service, Corporal Laidlaw was one of four soldiers required to stand guard over the memorial during the ceremony.

Although she’s been to many dawn services in Australia, it was her first time participating.

“I was worried about passing out, but everything turned out great,” the 24-year-old from Cranbourne, Victoria, said.

“I felt like it was more meaningful this time because I felt closer to soldiers who have fallen in the Middle East.

“This is where everybody comes through when they’re deploying on operations.”

Operation Accordion is the support mission to ADF operations and activities in the Middle East region.

What started as an unnamed billet for dozens of Air Force personnel following the First Gulf War, Headquarters Middle East, operating from Camp Baird, became a buzzing thoroughfare for Australians transiting forward to operations.

The base is named after Corporal Cameron Baird, VC, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013.

‘I was worried about passing out, but everything turned out great.’

Australia no longer has thousands of boots on the ground, but soldiers like Corporal Laidlaw are busy supporting more than 10 ADF operations stretching from Cyprus to Syria.

It’s her first deployment since enlisting in the Army in 2018.

“I didn’t know what to expect before I came over,” she said. “It’s all been different – in a great way.

“I’m in a small team and we’ve become like a family.”

Corporal Laidlaw’s team catalogues and manages warehouse items, such as ammunition.

One of four children, Corporal Laidlaw said her mother was anxious about her deployment and admitted her parents didn’t know much about Army life.

“I told them I was going on deployment in Dubai, that it was safe and they had nothing to worry about,” Corporal Laidlaw said.

“They’re pretty good with it. My dad’s very much like, ‘you’ll be right’. Mum was a little more concerned, but she’s fine now.”

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