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Tauranga woman helps kiwis call home

Corporal Robyn Stewart overlooking Dili airport where the RNZAF Iroquois are based.

29 May 2007

Corporal Robyn Stewart must be one of the most popular airwomen serving with the New Zealand Defence Force contingent in Timor Leste.

As the Information Systems Operator she's responsible for maintaining the satellite link used by her colleagues to keep in touch with their loved ones at home in New Zealand.

The 31-year-old former Tauranga Girls College student deployed to Timor Leste in April as one of 32 Royal New Zealand Air Force personnel serving within a 170-strong New Zealand Defence Force contingent in Dili.

“It’s satisfying to be able to provide welfare facilities like phones for people to call home,” she said. “Keeping in touch with friends and family is more important than ever when you’re deployed.”
The most difficult part of her job has been setting up the communications network at the airport in Dili where her Air Force colleagues are based with two Iroquois helicopters.

“I’ve been involved in setting up everything from satellite dishes to cables at the camps. Working outside is much harder than usual because of the heat and humidity.”

Corporal Stewart will return to New Zealand next month at the completion of her three-month deployment.

New Zealand has contributed to various United Nations and peacekeeping efforts in Timor-Leste since 1999.  The New Zealand Defence Force’s commitment to Timor-Leste at present consists of more than 170 Defence personnel and two helicopters serving with the Combined Joint Task Force, as well as two Military Liaison Officers serving with the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).