The story of an Australian Defence Force officer born in Port Moresby, who was posted back to the country of his birth to assist with delivering a safe and secure Apec 2018
Lt Col Gareth Bowering was born in Port Moresby in 1977 of English parents.
They returned to England in 1982, and after serving in the British Army, Gareth transferred to the Australian Army in 2008.
In 2016, Gareth was posted by the Australian Army to Port Moresby to assist with planning and delivering security for Apec 2018. This is his last posting as a military officer and it is poetically fitting that he has come full circle to give his last military service to the country of his birth. This is his story.
Gareth’s parents Pat and John Bowering came to PNG from England with the Voluntary Service Overseas organisation in 1973. His mother was a nurse and his father an ex-captain in the Royal Merchant Navy. Initially in Madang, Gareth’s father worked with business development and his mother as a maternal child health sister working in public health.
Gareth’s parents moved to Port Moresby in July 1974 before his brother Mark was born at the Port Moresby General Hospital in November 1974. His father worked for the Department of Transport, Maritime Development and eventually was involved in the creation of the PNG Shipping Corporation. They lived in a couple of addresses on Lawes Road and Airvos Avenue.
Gareth was born on Jan 4, 1977 at the Port Moresby General Hospital and both he and his brother Mark received nursery level education at the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium. The family remained in Port Moresby throughout self-governance and Independence. They returned to England in 1982.
From England to Australia
After completing his primary and secondary education in England, Gareth attained a Marine and Microbiology degree at Plymouth University. He then entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in January 2000 and was commissioned in April 2001.
He subsequently served as a royal engineer in the British Army with tours in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Croatia, Germany and Canada. In October 2005, Gareth married his sweetheart Samantha and they now have two beautiful children, William (10) and Sophie (5).
After reaching the rank of captain in the British Army, Gareth laterally transferred to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in April 2008. Like his parents, the call of the Pacific was pulling him closer to home.
Upon entering the ADF, Gareth was posted directly into special operations command as a royal Australian engineer within the special operations engineer regiment. During his time there, he performed domestic counterterrorism duties and was deployed to Afghanistan within the Nato special operations component command.
In 2014, Gareth attended the Australian Command and Staff College and was then selected as the military assistant to the special operations commander Australia in 2015. During the posting, he was again deployed to Afghanistan as the chief of staff of operations for the general command of police special units. Upon his return from Afghanistan, Gareth took up a new posting as a planning officer in the headquarters of the joint operations centre, specialising in counterterrorism planning and working on the emerging challenge of Apec 2018 in PNG.
Full circle to PNG for Apec 2018
In 2016, Gareth was promoted to lieutenant colonel and was selected to return to his birth place of Port Moresby, PNG. The selection was specifically for the appointment of Apec advisor and it was a proud moment in his life as it felt to him like he was going home to his roots. He returned to PNG in November 2016 and began working as the ADF advisor to the PNG Apec Joint Security Task Force (JSTF).
As the ADF advisor and member of the JSTF, Gareth played a significant role in the planning, preparations and delivery of a safe and secure Apec 2018. Under the guidance of Col Siale Diro of the Apec committee on safety and security, Gareth partnered with and worked for Col Lari Opa who was the JSTF deputy commander – Defence.
Gareth provided staff planning and coordination expertise across the JSTF and was the link between the JSTF and the ADF. His contribution to facilitating the high-end jet fighter, warship, air-maritime-land surveillance, special forces, counterterrorism, communications, drone and counter-drone support that the ADF provided for Apec 2018, was tremendously valuable. Over the two years of his duty with Apec in Port Moresby, Gareth formed a close bond with Col Opa, ACP Naua Vanuawaru (JSTF deputy commander – Police), Colonel Diro and members across the JSTF.
Col Opa said while at times there were different opinions or preferred methods of dealing with issues, Gareth always respected other peoples’ views. He took advice in his stride and always maintained a highly professional approach to work.
“Likewise, ACP Vanuawaru and I valued his opinion and listened to his advice,” Col Opa said.
“When we required a staff member with broader knowledge of the overall situation and the planning experience, I always turned to Gareth to lead the charge. He is an immaculate planner and always produced deliverables of the highest standard. He and the JSTF team would toil late hours to ensure the JSTF was ready for upcoming activities.
“Due to the difficult and challenging working environment that we were operating under, the team’s occasional social gatherings at Gareth’s place and the jokes we shared, kept us sane over the last two years.”
He also extended his assistance to the wider JSTF community, particularly the airport safety and security working group. The airport was identified as having the biggest logistic vulnerabilities.
“As it turned out to the delight of all at the Apec Coordination Authority and the JSTF, those countless hours put into preparations by individuals like Gareth, resulted in tremendous success at the airport precinct. In that context, Gareth was not only an excellent team player but also one of the many unsung heroes that had quietly gone about his work and made it possible for PNG to successfully host Apec 2018 here in Port Moresby.”
Col Diro said the value of Lt Col Bowering’s input to delivering a safe and secure Apec 2018 was immeasurable. Due to his very personal connection to PNG and his want for us to succeed, he rose above the normal routine of his remit and drove the Apec security effort wherever he could.
His fingerprints can be found across the Apec 2018 security endeavor from high level negotiations with security partners, briefings to foreign diplomats, JSTF operational and tactical planning, to high level PNG Government briefings.
“I will never forget Gareth’s commitment and his contribution to the most important event in our nation’s history,” Col Diro said.
After 18 years of Service, Gareth has decided to leave the military to spend more time with his young family.
“I am sad because the ADF will lose a great officer but I appreciate his reasons and my respect for him has grown even stronger. This Mangi Moresby saved his best for last in the land of his birth. No matter where he may travel in the years to come, PNG will always be a part of the fabric of his life.”
Bowering’s reflections on Apec 2018
My boomeranging across multiple continents back to my mother country during our inaugural hosting of one of the world’s largest events, feels like providence. I welcomed the daunting task of moving home, meeting new people, embracing new cultures and partnering with Col Opa under the steady guidance of Col Diro, to tackle the Apec challenge head on.
The Apec journey has been an arduous one for us all. Countless late nights, reams of staff work, and of course, the organisational challenges that come with brand new whole of government enterprises. I feel a deep sense of pride and satisfaction in being able to contribute to PNG’s extraordinarily successful hosting of Apec 2018. Starting from a blank sheet of paper, PNG has established new organisations, legislation, infrastructure, capabilities and achieved multiple Apec firsts.
Although our Apec hosting was a 13-month marathon, the final sprint during the major event of the Apec Economies Leaders’ Week witnessed a surge of olgeta effort that enabled PNG to exceed the expectations of all visiting economies. At the end of the operation, I was genuinely emotional with pride in PNG at hosting such a successful event.
The fact that the world has been discussing the challenging policy environment during Apec 2018 should be seen as a success metric. Furthermore, it has significantly increased our visibility on the world stage.
I will be forever grateful for the welcome PNG has given me and the friendships I have made. From the moment I arrived, Col Opa and his wife Deborah have both hosted and mentored me in how best to work and live in PNG.
I am honoured I could contribute to your efforts with the PNGDF and will never forget the time, openness and help you have personally afforded me as I have bumped along our Apec road.”
It once again feels like providence that PNG will be both the land of my birth and my final operational posting in army uniform. Once again PNG will be the birth place of my next adventure.”
- Article and pictures supplied by PNGDF Public Relations.