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Bedtime story for troops in Middle East

by
September 13, 2017

An RAAF base in the Middle East has a designated room where parents can read on camera to send home.

In the Price family household the essential ingredients for a painless bedtime ritual are a snuggle session with Dad, Dr Seuss, Sparkles the cat and Rocky the dragon.

But Sydney youngsters Sophie, 5, and Kody, 3, have had to make do without their father Andrew's funny character voices while he's on deployment at Australia's main air operating base in the Middle East.

Leading Aircraftman Price is building shelters for Australia's six Super Hornets that are conducting sorties against Islamic State (Daesh) in Syria and Iraq.

It never gets easier leaving home ahead of a long spell working away, Price says.

But now the marvels of technology mean he won't miss the nightly bedtime story despite being more than 10,000 kilometres from home.

The military base has a special reading room decorated with teddy bears, art work and a handmade Aussie Hero Quilts wall hanging.

Parents can go there and read a picture book on camera and mail the footage home on a USB stick.

"For Sophie, I chose a story about a koala who found she wasn't getting as much love from her parents because she had these new baby siblings," Price told AAP in the Middle East.

"So mum and dad were very busy but the book was about reassuring the young Koala, Lou, that mum and dad still love her no matter how busy they are. It's a bit relevant, I guess."

Kody's bed time story was also about native animals.

Price wishes he could see the kids' faces when they watch it for the first time.

RAAF chaplain Kev O'Sullivan says the program has been popular with serving parents and grandparents away for months on end as well as families back home.

There are moves to expand it to those stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another variation was parents filming themselves drawing their tent in the Middle East and talking about their life at camp while the kids are encouraged to draw the family house back in Australia.

"There's a partnership we have with our families, we have to do things that will nurture them so they will allow their loved ones to come here and serve," he said.

One of the challenges of being in the military was slotting back into home life when you return and this helps keep connections strong, he said.

"Normal life things get lost sometimes if you're not intentional about them and this is a great way to be intentional," O'Sullivan said.

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