Ask Sapper Lawrence Turalom what he wants to achieve from his career in the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) and his answer is simple.
CAPTION: Papua New Guinea Defence Force Sapper Lawrence Turalom on site during Exercise Puk Puk at Goldie River Training Depot in Papua New Guinea. Story by Major Jesse Robilliard. Photo by Sergeant Nunu Campos.
“I am a tradie, I am a qualified diesel engineer, I want to further my studies in the trade,” Sapper Turalom said.
The PNGDF engineer, from East New Britain, is supporting Exercise Puk Puk 2022.
This year, engineers from the PNGDF, Australian Army and British Army are working together to increase bonds, build relationships and develop trade skills while improving existing infrastructure at the Goldie River Training Depot near Port Moresby.
Sapper Turalom is helping to construct a steel-framed classroom at the depot’s Field Engineer Wing.
“I am enjoying Exercise Puk Puk. I am learning new things from our counterparts – the ADF and the British Army,” he said.
“I am happy to be working and living side-by-side with them.”
This isn’t the first time he has worked with Australians. Sapper Turalom, along with other members of the PNGDF, came to Australia’s aid during Operation Bushfire Assist 2019-2020, earning them a Chief of the Defence Force Commendation last year.
For seven weeks, he helped the Victorian community of Omeo get back on its feet.
“We were clearing the roads, we went to the schools building new fences, and we did some community engagement,” he said.
“It was so sad about the properties that were lost; we would sing songs and make them feel happy.”
While Sapper Turalom is learning from his colleagues from the ADF and British Army, he is also imparting his knowledge.
“I am teaching the ADF and UK Royal Engineers how to speak Tok Pisin.”
Exercise Puk Puk has been an enduring commitment to PNG since the early 2000s.