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Mentoring along the Kokoda Track
It’s a hard road to qualify as a career firefighter.
Two young officers from the Benalla Group who have applied for the career stream set themselves a parallel challenge when they accompanied District 23 Operations Manager Stewart Sooty Kreltszheim along the Kokoda Track this year.
Sooty’s mentoring through seven challenging days and nights offered Ben Cook and Kyle McCarthy comparable lessons in CFA service.
“It all related,” says Ben. “A lot of soldiers volunteered to go. We had a service at the main battle site, Isurava Memorial, which was really special. The words ‘courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice’ are engraved there and those words all apply to the religion of CFA.
“I wanted to learn more about the history and Sooty passed on what he had learned and also talked about Black Saturday. We had exposure to his leadership qualities but he also talked about war leadership on the ground versus the High Command back at home. He’d point out good and bad decisions made along the way.”
“You could bond with him easily,” says Kyle, “because he’s a leader form something meaningful in your lives back home. He’d have a one-on-one chat and help people along if morale was low.”
Stewart got as much out of the experience as his track companions which included one of his own children. “It’s the opportunity to influence these kids,” he says, “and interact with the magnificent people of PNG.
“I try to link the stories of the track back to everyday life. The noise of the world tunes out and it lets you into a deeper place to reflect. The times we sit down along the way and stategise together are really meaningful.
“They say that you either take something away from the track or you leave something behind. I’d say we’ve taken away a bond and we’ll be lifelong friends now.”
And how did the track change Ben and Kyle? “You realise what can be achieved if you set your mind to it,” says Kyle. “It gave us a huge appreciation of what the soldiers did for us.”