By Matthew Adi
From Monday 24th July to Wednesday 26th July, I had the incredible opportunity to be a part of the Army Work Experience Program. Over the brief three days, our team of 31 students were able to see the daily routines of Army personnel and hear their stories. The program gave me a better insight into what life in the Australian Defence Force would be like.
Excited and full of energy on our first day, our team gathered at the entrance to the Enoggera Barracks at 0800 hrs, where we were driven around the base in a bus. After brief introductions, an orange Work Experience T-shirt and a black hat were given to each of us as a “uniform” to wear throughout the program. Our first stop was the Australian Army Malaria Institute (AMI). It was spectacular to hear from CAPT Weng about the different types of mosquitoes and the diseases they transmitted, as well as to learn about the facilities used to conduct research for vaccines. From AMI, we travelled to the Headquarters of 16 Brigade Army Aviation (HQ 16 BDE AVN), where we attended a presentation that gave an overview of careers in Army Aviation. Following that, we were privileged to see up-close the main artillery weapons used by the 1 Regiment Royal Australian Artillery (1 REGT RAA) as well as visit the Gallipoli Barracks Domestic Police Unit (DPU) and 20th Surveillance & Target Acquisition Regiment (20STA). MAJ Wendy Wheadon explained the complex systems of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) which I found very interesting as I intend to be an engineer in the Defence Force. We also had a lot of fun, learning to operate the miniscule models of the drones.
Day Two commenced with the 8th/9th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (8/9RAR). Under the guidance of LT Box, the infantry soldiers shared stories and showed us some of the equipment they used – cameras and binoculars in Surveillance & Reconnaissance, the different types of weaponries used by gunmen and snipers, mortars and much more. We hopped in for a ride in one of the Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles (nicknamed Bushy or PMV). How cool was that! However, with a dark cloud approaching, we moved on to our Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA). Held in the Gymnasium, our Physical Training Instructor, CPL Barbara, led us through our Fitness Test after she showed us around the numerous sporting facilities in the barracks. Most of us were extremely tired and sore, but there was still more to see before the day ended. Thankfully, the delicious and sumptuous lunch at Gallipoli Barracks Mess was served and very much appreciated as we were starving after our Fitness Test. After lunch we headed to the spiritual centres of the barracks – the 9th Battalion War Memorial Museum and Royal Australian Regiment Memorial (RAR Memorial). The museum curators shared with us their wisdom and knowledge of the historical buildings. It was astounding to see that even military dogs were commemorated with a monumental stone; the placement of the stone was significant since “the dogs watched over us when we were alive, and now they watch over us when we are dead”, as Alan described it. We rounded the day off with some group activities at the Night Training Facility (NTF), where we were asked to search for certain objects that were hidden within the jungle and urban scenarios. It was extremely thought-provoking, as it was a game of communication. I was exhausted by the end of the day but soaked up the full experience of all the activities. It was time to recharge my energy and I was asleep at 1930 hours that night.
On the final day of the program, Defence Force Recruiting (DFR) walked us through the recruitment process in our opening session. We listened attentively and noted down many points. Next stop was the Australian Light Armoured Vehicles (ASLAVs), which are multi-purpose transport vehicles at the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment. We also were privalleged to tour the soldiers’ accommodation. Next on the schedule was to visit the Weapons Training Simulation System Centre (WTSS). It was certainly a highlight of the week for everyone, especially me; it was a memorable moment that I will treasure for a long time. The three-day program concluded with a debriefing session with WO1 Peter Thatcher. He shared about the ANZAC Spirit and what it means to us as Australians. Being a brilliant narrator and through his personal experience as a soldier, he took us on an interesting and remarkable journey through time from WW1 to the present. I am very fortunate to have obtained first-hand information and this makes me so proud to be an Australian and my burning desire to defend our country in years to come.
Over the three days, I learnt in great depth about Defence life and the careers available within the Army. I would like to express my gratitude to WO1 Peter Thatcher and SGT Philip Malone and the Work Experience Team for organising a wonderful program and escorting us. It was an extraordinary experience and I highly recommend this program to anyone interested in joining the Defence Force.