As a lawyer, Matthew Lynch of Geelong is used to hard work but he did not think twice when he was offered the chance to deploy with the Australian Army.
Packing away his suit, he donned an Army uniform and geared up for a four-month deployment to Solomon Islands where he’s working as a Platoon Sergeant in the Combined Task Force 635, the military element of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
Originally from Ocean Grove, Matthew, 31, is part of the final Army rotation to the region, and will shortly return home to Australia.
He says the soldiers have focused a lot on training, and they have learnt a lot in their new surroundings.
“Training in the jungle was great. Some of us were out for about four weeks and the conditions are 10 times worse than where we did our initial lead up training in Puckapunyal,” he said,
“Fatigue, heat management and limited water supply were all things we had to contend with.
“There was also a three or four day block of jungle survival where the blokes stepped out of their comfort zone - they really got a lot out of the experience.”
As a Corporal, Matthew’s job was to command a section within the rifle platoon but half way through the trip he was given the chance to act as the Platoon Sergeant something he says has been a great experience.
“It’s been good doing half the trip as a Section Commander then as a Platoon Sergeant because they’re completely different roles.
“Administration is a big part of my day, so I’ve been able to use my civilian skills as a lawyer to be able to do the job,” he said.
Matthew says apart from the training aspect, the soldiers have enjoyed getting out in to the Solomon Islands community to meet the locals.
“Everyone’s so friendly - they love seeing us cruising around and knowing we’re here.
“The relationship over the past decade we’ve been here has been fostered well and we’ll leave on good term.,”
During his 10 years in the Army Reserve, Matthew has also had the chance to help out communities closer to home including after the devastating bushfires that ravaged north-eastern Victoria in 2009.
“We were in King Lake and it was quite confronting. There were a lot of tears and hugging because we were the first to arrive on the scene to help the locals out.
“They were glad to see us there and would start to tell their stories. They just wanted to be reassured we were there looking after them and not disconnected from the rest of the community.”
Matthew, a former Bellarine Secondary College student, grew up on the Surf Coast and now lives with his wife in Geelong.
“We met during high school where she was a year ahead of me. She’s been really supportive with me going away, but I’m looking forward to seeing her when I get back.”
Continued stability in Solomon Islands has enabled Government to determine the military contribution to RAMSI can be withdrawn later this year. Australia will maintain its commitment to Solomon Islands through continued bilateral arrangements under the Defence Cooperation Program and the Solomon Islands–Australia Partnership for Development.