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Dustin Hoppe - Greensborough

Working outdoors is nothing unusual for Greensborough’s Dustin Hoppe.  As a landscape gardener he’s used to getting his hands dirty, but it’s his role in the Australian Army Reserve which has seen him travel the country and deploy overseas in support of Australia’s Pacific neighbours.

Lance Corporal Hoppe is now on his second trip to Solomon Islands, as part of Australia’s commitment to the Regional Assistance to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).  As a rifle company member within Combined Task Force 635, Dustin is enjoying the challenges of life on deployment.

“My job is the 2IC (Second in Charge) of the rifle section and my focus is to develop training for the guys.  During a call out I am a grenadier and I also understudy the section commander,” Dustin said.

Dustin, 27, says much has changed since his last deployment to Solomon Islands, especially security in the region.

“I was here in 2010 as a Trooper (equivalent to the rank of Private)  it was during the election and the looters burnt down Honiara China Town.  We were patrolling a lot more actively and conducting patrols through the area.  We also did  react to a couple of incidents, one being the arrest of (notorious Solomon Islands rebel), Jimmy Rasta, which was a bit of excitement.

While it’s been a change of pace for the soldiers, Dustin said he’s still gained a lot from his latest trip, and has enjoyed the chance to undertake training in a different environment.

“The trip has been really good, we’ve spent a lot more time in the jungle this time, close to 30 days actually.  It makes all the training we’ve been doing really relevant because you can understand why you do certain things and get to experience a different operating environment.  The training has been great,  jungle training and survival in a tropical environment has been an eye opener.  Except now being in the Non Commissioned Officer role, I’ve had to do a lot of paperwork and management,” he said.

While you may not think there is  much cross over between a rifleman on deployment and a landscaping career, Dustin says his five years in the Army Reserve has really assisted his professional life.

“My Army Reserve career has helped me go from being an apprentice then finishing that and getting promoted straight to foreman, so being in the Army gives you that extra step in professional development,” he said.

Dustin also had the chance to assist communities closer to home, after being part of the clean up efforts following the fires that devastated rural Victoria in 2009.

“We were part of Operation Vic Fire Assist in 2009.  We went to Churchill and helped out by doing search team and identification tasks as well as door knocking to check people had vacated.  It was a great way to give back to the community and be able to do something to help,” he said.