Former Gunnedah brothers share military dream

Growing up, brothers Jamie and Andrew McRae shared more than a home – they also shared a dream of being in the military.

This long-held dream was realised in adulthood, with Andrew serving in the Australian Air Force for about 25 years and Jamie enlisted in the Australian Army for 23 years.

The pair, along with their younger brother Alexander, were part of the Gunnedah cadet unit in their youth.

“Both Andrew and Jamie had been Cadet Under Officer in the Gunnedah cadets – the cadet unit was pretty strong then,” their father Barry McRae said. 

“They loved going out and doing all the training.”

The boys attended St Xavier’s Primary School and St Mary’s College. 

“From probably near the end of primary school, [Jamie] always wanted to be in the army because he’s got an older brother [Andrew] who’s in the air force,” Barry said.

“Andrew was the same – he was absolutely determined to go into the air force.

“My grandfather has served in WWI and they used to be impressed with him.

“[Jamie’s] desire to be in the army never wavered right throughout highschool.”

Andrew headed off to the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra after highschool, and Jamie was inspired to follow in his footsteps three years later. The last of Jamie’s training saw him spend 12 months at the Royal Military College – Duntroon.

“I think [Jamie’s] first posting was to Denman down in the Hunter Valley,” Barry said.

"He was absolutely thrilled.”

Jamie has also been deployed to East Timor, Bougainville Island (Papua New Guinea), the Solomon Islands and Iraq. 

“I know when I had an email from him when he was in Iraq in 2008 and he said just being there makes a difference to the people; that’s the sort of person he is,” Barry said.

“In those times he’s made lots of friends, both the local people and the people he’s serving with.

“He just gets along with everyone. He’s a real people person.”

Jamis is trained as an ammunition technical specialist but is currently in Afghanistan mentoring Afghans at the Kabul General Garrison Command (KGC).

An Army Lieutenant Colonel, Jamie McRae is the KGC chief of staff advisor and mentor, training, advising and assisting Afghan and Australian personnel. KGC plans and coordinates all security operations across Kabul province, surrounding the Afghan capital.

Jamie said he is enjoying his time in Afghanistan.

“It has been 10 years since I last deployed; this is my first deployment to Afghanistan and I didn’t know what to expect,” he said.

“In terms of the scenery and the people, I have been pleasantly surprised.”

His day begins by taking tea with an Afghan Army general and they discuss how plans in the headquarters are progressing.

“I heard about the hospitality of the Afghans but they have truly taken it to the next level,” Jamie said.

“I think I’ve shaken hands more in a few weeks here than I have in years at home.

“They’re so polite. They are so eager to make sure we’re well-hosted. 

“It’s just above and beyond what I expected.”

Jamie and his wife are both Lieutenant Colonels in the army, and Andrew and his wife are both wing commanders in the air force.

“They've certainly got understanding families when it comes to being overseas,” Barry said.

“Obviously, you’re a bit nervous because they go to some pretty dangerous places in the world.

“You’re reassured by the fact that their training is second to none. The training they received in the defence force is absolutely fantastic.

“Jamie’s even had a period of training in the UK when he did a diploma and I know Andrew did his masters in the UK.”

Jamie said his mother, Helen, was excited but a little nervous when she found out he was deploying to Afghanistan.

“They understand this is something I have always wanted to do,” he said.

“Whether it is deploying or training, I’m always doing something and they know I love it.”

Barry said the brothers have made friends “all over the world” but still enjoy the “outdoor life” in Australia and are “pretty keen cricketers”.