Leigh Turnbull reflects on the Criterion Hotel’s collection of military memorabilia and prepares to welcome US soldiers.
Leigh Turnbull reflects on the Criterion Hotel’s collection of military memorabilia and prepares to welcome US soldiers. Sharyn O'Neill

Big wet threat to Talisman Sabre

MOTHER Nature's fury came close to dealing yet another blow to Rockhampton business owners this week when it threatened to cancel the Talisman Sabre 2011 exercise.

The Morning Bulletin understands that army staff inspected the Shoalwater Bay Military Training area amid concerns it might be too wet after 1000mm of rain was dumped on it since January this year.

While business owners who have struggled to make ends meet over the past few months were looking forward to the thousands of soldiers who come with the exercise, it is believed Australian Defence Force personnel were conducting inspections to see if it would go ahead.

But it is now believed any fears can be cast aside as the area was given the all-clear for the July war games to continue.

Talisman Sabre 2011, which is a joint project between the Australian and United States Defence Forces, is planned to run from July 11 to 29 and bring about 8000 US soldiers into the area.

Owner of the Criterion Hotel Leigh Turnbull said he hoped nothing would stop the exercise going ahead as it was great for the Rockhampton region on a number of levels.

“It's not only money-wise, it's a nation-building exercise,” Mr Turnbull said.

“It's absolutely marvellous for our affiliation with the US and Singapore and they come into town and they buy shirts and all sorts of stuff for the retail operation – that's fantastic.”

He said it was thanks to the Australian Army Reserve that exercises like the Talisman Sabre came to fruition.

“Without the reserve soldiers in Australia these exercises would not happen.

"Our reserves are the medics, our reserves are umpires.”

Having owned the Criterion Hotel for 20 years, Mr Turnbull said he'd seen his fair share of American soldiers come through the town and had always found them well-behaved as well.

He said their presence this year would be even more treasured than usual after a tough financial start to the year because of the floods.

“We had the worst new year and the worst two months of the year that we've ever had; our trade was down by 40% and that's a considerable amount of money,” Mr Turnbull said.

Owner of the Sail Inn in Yeppoon, Inge Pederson, said any touring soldiers would be welcomed to the coast with open arms.

“When people choose to come here it's in everybody's best interest to welcome them and make them feel happy about coming here,” Ms Pederson said.

“They are going to take it back to where they are in America and give us a good name.”

The Australian Defence Force wasn't able to provide a comment on the inspection yesterday, but is expected to issue a statement today.



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