DEVONPORT’S Siobhan Williams is not your average university student.
While many of her counterparts study during the week, Siobhan’s typical week sees her not only studying for a double degree in Nursing and Paramedics but also don the Army uniform to test a different set of skills.
The 21-year-old has spent the past four months as a member of the Combined Task Force 635 (CTF635), made up of about 160 members from Australia, Tonga, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea in support of the Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
“I’m a transport driver here so my main role is to support the rifle company with their transport requirements,” she said.
While many of her friends have gone to more traditional holiday spots for their breaks from study, “Private Williams” has loved having the chance to learn about another culture in a unique way.
“One of the highlights was building a road to our training area. It was great working alongside the locals and chopping through the jungle.
“We’ve also had the chance to participate in a cross-island walk. Beforehand we enjoyed a traditional meal and watched the customary La La dance by the females and a warrior dance by the males.”
While many of her workmates are Reservists, Siobhan has completed some full time Army service when she undertook the Army’s Gap Year program after graduating form St Brendan-Shaw College
“My gap year was great. I learnt a lot about the Army, soldiering and vehicles. Before joining the army, I never imagined myself being a truck driver but I’ve loved it.”
Siobhan said she considered joining the full time Army but decided to have her next adventure studying in a different state at university.
“I’m doing a combined undergraduate of Nursing and Para medicine at Australian Catholic University in Ballarat.
“What was really good was when the Exercise Boss Lift came over I had the opportunity to meet a paramedic from Ambulance Victoria. Talking with him has motivated me for my next challenge,” Siobhan said.
And while some people find it hard to adapt to the change from full time to part time Army service, Siobhan says it’s the variety of different civilian backgrounds that Reservists have that makes work rewarding.
“I consider it an advantage working with Reservists. They come from all walks of life and have a lot to offer. Coming from a small town, it’s interesting meeting and working with people from such diverse backgrounds. There’s always something new that you learn about everyone,” she said.
Siobhan says she’s really enjoyed getting to know the Tongan and New Zealand members of the CTF, who have worked with the Aussies in Solomon Islands for the past decade.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to work in such a culturally and socially diverse workplace. I’ve learnt about different operating systems and cultures. The Tongans have such high morale, and they’re so much fun to be around.”
While some may think of the Army as a male dominant environment, Siobhan believes women bring a new dynamic.
“It’s the opposite to the Army at my uni. The main degrees are nursing and primary school teaching so it’s predominately female. Going from the Army to that was a bit of a shock so it’s kind of nice being back in this environment again.”