Christmas no silent night near Gaza

ANGELA CUMING
Last updated 07:27 15/12/2012

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Christmas is always filled with the stresses of the silly season: Gripes over paid parking at the shops; time spent wrapping presents; over-priced hams and blown fairy lights.

Then there will be the Christmas of Hamilton's Angela Hockenhull: Keeping an eye on aircraft flying over the Gaza Strip; wearing body armour; listening to rocket attacks and generally trying to keep the peace between two warring peoples.

Warrant Officer Hockenhull serves in the New Zealand Army and is currently on deployment in Sinai, Egypt.

It is where she will spend Christmas Day and the former Fairfield High student says she misses the Waikato at this time of year.

"The summer, I miss Kiwi summers," she told the Waikato Times from her Egyptian base. "Every Christmas my family goes camping in Raglan and I miss that. It's so cold where I am at the moment."

Warrant Officer Hockenhull is seven months into her year-long deployment in the troubled region.

Her role is twofold. She is the Kiwi contingent's administrative clerk, and when she is not busy making sure all the finances are in order she is concentrating on being a multi-national force observer.

"We observe, report any potential violations that Egypt and Israel have made under the peace treaty," she said.

"If we see aircraft flying over a certain spot, or a tank where it shouldn't be, we have to report it to headquarters. Basically, we trying to keep the peace."

But like most of us back home, the troops will get Christmas Day off work.

Warrant Officer Hockenhull says she will rise early to cook breakfast for the 25 Kiwi troops who will be there with her - pancakes, bacon and banana will be on the menu. Secret Santa presents will be handed out and there will be a Kiwi v Aussie troops cricket match before a traditional lunch. Phone calls home to loved ones and family are made.

"It's always great to be able to Skype to home," she said. "It makes being away from home so much easier."

And while creature comforts like cellphones and Christmas turkey may be on hand, the conflict in the region is never far from Warrant Officer Hockenhull's mind. "It's quite surreal when you are living on camp because 12 kilometres up the road is the Gaza Strip and you can be sitting down to a meal and hear a big explosion. That's when it hits home that you are a long way from New Zealand."

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- Waikato Times

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