When deployed on Exercise Hamel in preparation for her coming deployment to Afghanistan with Combined Team – Uruzgan, Captain Dray spoke proudly of her family’s military history and said her grandfather, Uncle Arthur, joined the Army in 1941.
“He served in New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies during World War II, taking part in the Battle of Tarakan in 1945,” she said.
“My [other] grandfather, Dave Candish, served in the Royal Australian Navy from 1948 to 1959 as an electrical mechanic and saw service in Korea, Malaya, Papua New Guinea and Japan.
“My father, Bill Dray, served for 13 years in the RAAF as an instrument fitter and worked with the Hercules simulators.
“He joined air cadets as an instructor in 1994 and is still involved with the Air Cadets in North Queensland.”
Postings to Canberra, Puckapunyal, Townsville, Brisbane and now Darwin working in the regimental HQ at Norforce, have helped Capt Dray continue to write her family’s military legacy.
Captain Dray also spoke of the opportunities the Army had given her, from playing rugby across the world to leading troops on operations, and of the sense of equality she enjoyed in the Army.
“At my unit, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or if you’re white, because when you put on this uniform, we’re all wearing the green skin and we’re all treated the same,” she said.
“I love getting out and seeing the country, visiting the communities, meeting the people and seeing how Norforce and the Defence Indigenous Development Program have made a real difference.
“I’m also looking forward to the new plan to encourage local indigenous women to join Norforce. It will be a real recruitment opportunity for indigenous women from all over the Northern Territory and the Kimberley region.”
Rugby has always been a passion for Captain Dray, from playing in the 2004 ADFA rugby in New Zealand and the 2007 Army Women’s Rugby in Singapore to the 2008 Royal Logistics Corps (UK) European 10s in Belgium while on Exercise Long Look.
Captain Dray said she believed there were five core elements to success in life – education, health, community, role-models and the belief in yourself to dream big.
“To me as an indigenous soldier it means I have a connection with the land,” she said.
“The best thing about the ADF is our involvement in the border protection of our country and protecting that land.”
On Exercise Hamel, Captain Dray supervised a group of intelligence analysts to provide information in brigade headquarters to assist the battle groups.
She said it was unfortunate the exercise kept her from attending the NAIDOC Week activities or watching the State of Origin this year, but she was glad to hear Queensland got up.
“NAIDOC Week 2012 is a celebration of culture and advancing equality especially with this year’s theme – They dared to challenge,” she said.
First published in Army News Edition 1286.