Military History

Medals of the Month – July 2019 | Warrant Officer Class One Colin Watego OAM

By The Cove July 4, 2019


Starting this month, The Cove, working with Australian Army Museum of New South Wales, will feature a set of medals from a former serving member and tell the member's story. As part of our NAIDOC Week celebrations, we are proudly starting this series with the story of Warrant Officer Class One Colin Watego OAM.

Military Medals
  • Medal of the Order of Australia, in the Military Division.
  • Australian Active Service Medal
  • East Timor Campaign Medal
  • Defence Long Service Medal
  • Australian Defence Medal
Other Awards (not pictured)
  • Federation Star (worn on the ribbon of the Defence Long Service Medal when worn as a ribbon bar - see picture below)
  • Silver Commendation Australian Army
  • Bronze Commendation Australian Army
  • Returned from Active Service Badge

Warrant Officer Class One Colin (Col) Watego, OAM was born in Bangalow, NSW and was the eldest of a large family of 6 children; 4 boys and 2 girls. He and his family initially lived in Byron Bay NSW – where Wategos Beach is the namesake of his ancestors. While he was still young, the family moved to Mount Gravatt, the southern suburbs of Brisbane, Queensland. They lived in a 2-bedroom fibro home leased through the Queensland Housing Commission.

Col was educated in Queensland and whilst at school he and his brother Neil joined the Army Cadets. At the age of 20, both Col and Neil followed in the footsteps of many of the men in Colin’s family and joined the Australian Army. Both enlisted into the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery (RAA) on the 3rd September 1974. The generational linage of men in Colin’s family who had also previously served included: his father (Col Watego Senior – WWII); his uncles (his father’s brothers, Vince Watego, who died on the battlefields of El Alamein, and Clarence Watego – WWII); his grandfather (Murray Watego – WWI and WWII); his great uncle (his grandfather's brother, George Watego – WWI); and his grandfather’s brother-in-law (his great uncle, Peter Knowles – WWI).

Col and Neil both initially enlisted into the Army Reserve. However, after Neil completed his tenure and discharged, Col continued to serve and eventually transferred to the Australian Regular Army (ARA) continuing to serve in the Artillery in full-time Service. In March 2012, Col separated from the Regular Army, and again transferred into the Active Army Reserve. During Col’s Military Service, Col’s youngest brother (Lloyd Watego – 17 years his junior) also enlisted and served with pride in the Australian Regular Army, discharging after 7 years of Military Service.

Col continued to serve up until he reached compulsory retirement age in 2018.

In 1999 Col deployed to East Timor with “A” Field Battery RAA and upon his return to Australia in 2000, he was appointed as the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of the 8th/12th Medium Regiment, Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery. A significant highlight of Col’s Military career was to wear the same Colour Patch on his hat  which his father (as a Gunner) wore on his shoulder in the Second World War.

Col’s last Artillery Regimental Appointment was as the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery, Corps Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) and Regimental Master Gunner (RMG RAA) from 2004 to 2006, after which he was then appointed as the Regimental Sergeant Major – Defence Police Training Centre, Military Police.

In 2009 Col was appointed as the Australian Defence Force Senior Indigenous Recruitment Officer and Senior Indigenous Military Mentor of the ADF Indigenous Pre-Recruitment Course (IPRC). 

The ADF IPRC delivered Defence and non-Defence training to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women from Communities across the width and breath of Australia from 2008 to 2016. Today's Navy, Army and Air Force Indigenous Programs have proven to be pivotal in providing high-quality training to encourage, empower, and propel young Indigenous Australians into the ADF as a challenging but rewarding long-term career to Serve Country.

In July 2015 Warrant Officer Watego was presented the Federation Star, a prodigious honour in recognition of 40 years of continuous service to Defence. However, his most memorable experience as a proud Indigenous Australian Soldier was as the Honour Guard Commander of the “Honouring Warrior Spirit Ceremony”, the inaugural Indigenous Military Ceremony at ANZAC Cove Gallipoli. There, with seven other Indigenous Australian Soldiers, he paid respect and acknowledged the sacrifice of all Warriors and in particular the Warrior Spirit of all of our Indigenous ancestors who have gone before us.

In 2016, after a lifetime of service to Australia, Warrant Officer Watego was acknowledged in the Queen’s Honour’s List 2016, “For meritorious service to Indigenous Affairs in the Australian Defence Force” with the Medal of the Order of Australia in the Military Division.

Now retired from the Army, Col is still committed to the young men and women of this nation. When not training young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women for possible pathways into the Australian Defence Force or Australian Public Service, Col’s organisation, called TRYP Consultancy Pty Ltd (To Reach Your Potential), conducts youth leadership and teambuilding development and training programs based on a modified Defence Force Recruit Training Model. In partnership with other likeminded organisations, TRYP delivers foundational life-skills, leadership and teambuilding skills, employability skills, culture and education to empower our youth to become citizens who contribute to thier community in a positive way. In September 2016, Col was honoured to be named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, for his contribution in the assistance and support to Indigenous Youth through TRYP Consultancy Pty Ltd.

Col firmly believes that our youth are our future: that our youth possess the same warrior spirit as our ancestors. He believes that it is our responsibility to encourage, mentor and empower our youth to develop and strengthen their warrior spirit, so that they too can follow in the footsteps of their warrior ancestors and become confident and competent citizens who contribute in a positive way: Serving Community and Serving Country.

Biographical information and some images featured in this article were sourced from http://servingcountry.com.au/portfolio/colin-watego/


Portrait

Biography

The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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