In a popular consultation organised by the United Nations and held on August 30, close to 80 per cent of East Timorese voters rejected an autonomy package offered by Indonesia, instead electing to move toward independence.
Violence erupted following the result, and the Australian-led International Force East Timor (INTERFET) was deployed to restore order and remove the threat of pro-Indonesian militias. With 5,500 men and women involved, this was the largest deployment of the Australian Defence Force since Vietnam.
In September 1999, the newly introduced Australian Light Armoured Vehicles (ASLAVs) from C Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment arrived in East Timor aboard HMAS Tobruk in order to provide armour and mobility to INTERFET.
Corporal Aaron Rutledge commanded an ASLAV. Rutledge liked to draw in his spare time and in East Timor he decorated his helmet with a cartoon dog. His artistic talents lead to him being made an unofficial artist for his unit, and he was called upon to decorate other items.