NEWS, COMMUNITY, RECREATION, FRIENDS & FAMILY | MUSWELLBROOK, SINGLETON & SURROUNDS

July 22, 2024 1:09 PM

New leaders in Army and Wine

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BY DI SNEDDON

If you saw this trio walking down the street you would think to yourself, ‘What a lovely little family’.

Lovely, they certainly are but it only takes a few minutes of introduction and you realise their contribution to the local community is probably more than any other couple could claim.

James Smith is professionally known as Lieutenant Colonel James Smith, commanding officer at the Australian Army’s School of Infantry in Singleton.  Amy is the CEO of Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association.  Together they are making a huge difference in the lives of others and this is something both believe is absolutely crucial to a meaningful life.

Lt Col Smith arrived at the School of Infantry in January and had no time to settle in with the announcement that the Army Barracks in Singleton would provide support to those fighting the State’s major bushfires

Then covid sent the school into lockdown for three months.

The challenge of adapting training to accommodate social distancing and managing the wellbeing of the 950 trainees and staff on site wasn’t easy but Lt Col Smith said he couldn’t be more proud of his soldiers’, trainees’ and civilian staff’s response.

“I spoke to every trainee personally and made it clear that if we get covid we will stop training, so we needed to isolate collectively and pull together as a team.,” Lt Col Smith said.

“It was certainly hard not to have social time but I reminded them they still had a job and that what they are doing is really worthwhile, that we are essential.

“The nation needs an Army and we train the Infantry for our Army,” he said.

Lt Col Smith said the diversity of the Army has never been more broad and he is continually impressed with the calibre of trainees putting their hand up to join the Infantry which is Army’s biggest Corps.

Joining the Army is so much more than choosing a job.  It is a lifestyle that can provide some great opportunities to live and work in different parts of the country and around the world -you never know where you might end up.

Lt Col Smith’s career includes stints in East Timor, Egypt, New Guinea, Afghanistan, a year in the United States at Kansas as well as moves to Canberra, Sydney, Townsville and Brisbane.

James has been posted to Singleton before and as head of the School of Infantry he is keen for his soldiers to get involved in the community and sets a solid example.

Covid didn’t give him an easy start for community connection but he is very much looking forward doing this and the Hunter Valley Wine Show hopefully coming up later this year, will set the benchmark for how Army and community can work together.

It is also perhaps one of the rare occasions when his career path will cross over with his wife’s.

Amy Cooper stepped into her role as CEO of Hunter Wine and Tourism Association soon after her husband was posted to Singleton.

Amy’s career history includes Community Engagement Manager of Cancer Council in the Hunter and most recently CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities North Australia which indicates her need to be doing meaningful work.

“As a family we want to get involved in the community, it is important to us to that we get connected to the people where we are living and try to make a contribution to the community” Amy said.

She started her new role at a time that has been challenging for the wine and tourism industry given that they have been hit from all angles with the drought, bushfires and now covid that has many businesses struggling to recover.

“HVWTA has had to play a different but critical role during this difficult time. It is about ensuring members are kept abreast on how their business can operate in the new normal, providing the latest information and assistance such as government grants, and offering the practical and emotional support to create resilience as an industry.”

In the opinion of The Hunter River Times, this region is extremely fortunate to have two very competent and passionate people in these two important roles.

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