For RMIT student Mark Hua from Kensington, Victoria, it’s the lessons learned outside the classroom that have resonated the most.
Currently deployed on Operation Anode as an Army Reserve soldier, Mark is working in the Solomon Islands as part of the Australian Defence Force contribution to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) which is providing security support to the local police.
“I’m a rifleman within Combined Task Force 635 (CTF635). In my section I am the Minimi ( Light Machine Gun) gunner and outside of that I help with security as required. Plus we are trained for population protection control and Public Order Management,” Mark said.
After joining the Army Reserve three years ago, Mark, 22, says he’s proud to be on his first deployment, and has been surprised with how much he’s enjoyed the experience.
“I didn’t have any expectations before coming here really; my underlying thought was that it would be difficult at times but it’s good to put your skills to practice. As a Reservist it can be quite difficult getting a deployment and with all the other operations closing up I’m very lucky to jump on one of the last ones.
“Being able to perform as a soldier on a daily basis has been great. As a Reservist it’s sometimes hard to fit everything within the constraints of the Tuesday nights and the one weekend a month and it can be difficult to get consistency. But with the last six months it’s been the same soldiering consistently which will help a lot and I now have a lot more experience and confidence in what I’ve been doing,” Mark said.
Mark claims it’s the Army lessons he’s learned in a new environment, on deployment in Solomon Islands that will leave left a lasting impression.
“There have been several courses run throughout the duration of the deployment; the Supervisor Infantry Operation Section (SIOS) - that’s the first course you undertake to earn the rank of corporal – built upon the delivery of orders and how you conduct yourself as a junior leader. At home it’s usually run in the barracks but due to the benefit of having a jungle and on deployment it was adjusted so that you could do it there too to get hands on experience,” Mark said.
Mark dived head first into the two week and was awarded with a special honour upon completion.
“To my surprise I was awarded the student of merit, which means that I was the best performing student throughout the assessments. Leadership is very challenging; trying to get other people to follow you, especially your mates or people you know can be quite difficult. Trying to have that presence of being a leader and needing knowledge and treating people with equality can be quite difficult tasks. There were several lessons on leadership, how you conduct yourself, and at the same time we were able to put that in to practice in the field phase which was excellent,” Mark said.
With the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force requiring less support from CTF635, there has been a heavy emphasis on training during the four month deployments, something which Mark says has been invaluable.
“With the amount of instructors here taking us for different lessons, there has been a lot of good involvement and a lot of experience across different spectrums of the Army. The training has certainly been the best thing, especially the SIOS course because it helps you appreciate what the ranks do and what they go through, and given the number of instructors involved I think it was the best combination possible and we got the most out of it.
“I would have to say the conduct of training in the jungle was great. I’ve had experiences in the jungle in my civilian life; I’ve walked the Kokoda track and things like that so I thought it wouldn’t be that much different , but it was really different being in the jungle, working as a soldier,” Mark said.
Mark will soon return home to Kensington where he’ll go back to RMIT to complete his Bachelor of Youth Work. He says after having such a valuable experience assisting communities during his Army service, he’s got big plans for the future.
“I want to apply for the Victoria Police. Being in the military has made me want to work in the services and help other people directly. My brother in law was a Victorian policeman for a long time and he encouraged me to get some more life experience and join the Army Reserve, and I’ve met so many police who are also Reservists that I know I will be able to continue my Army career as well. Those leadership qualities and that ability to be confident in yourself definitely translates into all spectrums of society no matter what you do,” Mark said.
After a decade of ADF presence in the country, continued stability in the Solomon Islands has enabled the Government to determine that Australia’s military contribution to the RAMSI mission will be withdrawn later this year.