By THOMAS HUKAHU
HAVE you attended a military career information session, where you are informed about how you can apply to join the army, navy or air force, or army reserve of a nation?
I have not been to one in Papua New Guinea. However, I was privileged to have attended one last week, here in Adelaide, Australia.
Among other things, the session informed candidates the kind of benefits that await them when they join the Australian Army Reserve as well as who is eligible to apply.
Reservists are vital in many developed countries as in providing the extra manpower to assist their military units in defence exercises or serve in humanitarian missions.
Those are some things that I was reminded of in that session on October 1.
Attending the information session
In my newsfeed on social media, I got word that there was this information session for the Australian Army Reserve to be hosted in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) recruiting office here in Adelaide.
The session would be hosted on Thursday, from 6 pm – 8 pm.
As is the case in many public sessions hosted by institutions and organisations, those interested usually apply online for a seat to be reserved for them.
I did that and within minutes got a confirmation email that I could attend.
After completing some work on campus that evening, I walked up two blocks to get to the ADF building. The three of us, all men, two Aussies and me, were met by two female officers, one an army personnel and the other with the air force.
They had our temperatures taken using a different type of instrument that need not be in touch with your body to give a reading. (It was part of COVID-19 precautionary measures.)
We then signed on a list that they had, based on our requests sent days earlier, and we were escorted by the army officer into a lift and went up to another floor. She took us into a small lecture room and pointed us to seats that we could take and information books to pore over while she and her colleague attended to other people on the ground floor, those who were queuing for the same event.
Nine more people, including two young women, joined us afterwards for the session where two of the female officers were joined by a male officer to facilitate the talk.
Remembering a military exercise a decade ago
As I was thinking about the session the day before it convened, I remembered that 10 years ago, while working in the media, some of us boarded the HMAS Tobruk, an Aussie military sea vessel that had been used in many humanitarian missions by the Australian Army.
Such vessels are often used to transport personnel with the Australian Army Reserve and other units for military exercises or support work in humanitarian missions, including work in Timor-Leste.
The HMAS Tobruk was berthing in Port Moresby in August 2010 when the National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop, the PNG Defence Force commander then Brig-Gen Francis Agwi and other dignitaries as well as us, the media team, boarded it.
The landing heavy ship, which was capable of beaching, was then on its way to Rabaul where Australian, American and PNGDF soldiers would run primary health clinics for optometry, dental and pharmacy, an immunisation programme for children and public health awareness.
In 2009, the vessel also participated in relief efforts after a tsunami hit Tonga and Samoa, where reservists would certainly be part of such an exercise.
The HMAS Tobruk was decommissioned in 2015.
The kind of important work that military personnel, which could include reservists, did in times of emergencies underscored the importance of such a vessel in transportation purposes.
Make a difference
In an information brochure titled Do something for yourself and your community, the Australian Army Reserve emphasises the need to make a difference in one’s community.
“As a member of the Army Reserve, you’ll join people from all backgrounds who want to add a new dimension to their lives.
“You’ll get involved in rewarding activities such as supporting humanitarian missions, disaster-relief activities, security tasks and combat operations. With a desire to ‘give something back’, you’ll be serving the country you love and benefitting the broader community.”
This is one reason for joining an army reserve, if there is one in your country.
The reservists in Australia helped in bushfire efforts here in South Australia and elsewhere at the start of the year.
When I posted something on social media about me going to the army reserve information session, the wife of my former American pastor from decades ago said her son also served in the US Army Reserve.
She said: “Jared (her son) was in the US Army Reserve for nine years and went overseas three times, including doing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was very dangerous business, but he was helping his nation and we are proud of him.”
Who can enrol in the army reserve?
From the information session here last week, we were informed that someone who wants to join the Australian Army Reserve would have to be an Australian citizen to apply.
They must also be physically fit. (A test of push ups, sit ups and a run would be used to gauge someone’s pre-entry fitness level.)
The recruiters will also do a criminal-record check on candidates.
The minimum age is 17 and the officers said the age limit is 65, though it is advisable that candidates must be under 60.
Of course, personnel are needed in many fields, not just for combat duties.
Fully-trained part-time soldiers
The Australian Army Reserve has the main goal of working alongside the full-time army and are fully-trained, a part-time defence force comprising 14,000-plus part-time soldiers and officers.
There are 50-plus reserve units across Australia.
People who join the reserve have a full-time job but take time off to do their reserve duties which may take between 35 and 70 days a year.
They are fully-trained in that they get the same kind of training as full-time soldiers but the training sessions are done in blocks instead of taking a full year or so.
Candidates can apply for jobs within the reserve which utilise skills that they already possess, as a driver or chef or technician.
Joining reserve has benefits
The Australian Army Reserve reminds candidates that joining them is not just a one-way thing where they give something back to their country.
There are a lot of benefits in enlisting in the reserve and they list those down, including tax-free daily pay and allowances, free food, accommodation, medical and emergency dental care when training or on exercise, world-class leadership and training, personal and professional development and travel and adventure.
The female army officer and male officer said that when they joined the reserve, they thought they would be around for only a few years and then leave.
However, they said they have stayed on much longer because they enjoyed the benefits of being a reserve, including the friends they made while serving.
The male officer emphasised that some skills learned while being part of the reserve can be transferred to their full-time jobs, and those skills can also be taught as part of their training.
Students thinking of doing a degree can become a reservist and the army would pay for their tertiary education.
“You save money that way,” the male officer said.
My thoughts about the army reserve
When I arrived at their recruiting office that evening, I told the female officers that I was not Australian and was a student here in the city, and they said that was fine.
I went for the session primarily for information.
I am one who believes that each country must have a reserve force, one that is different from full-time military units.
Such a force can be called upon in case of an emergency, as in assisting victims of natural disasters (as in an earthquake or tsunami), or in search and rescue operations in places where an army base is not present.
Hopefully, in years to come, we, the smaller nations in the Pacific, can also form our own reserve to help support the full-time soldiers and officers in the military in different tasks in our nations or in region.
- Thomas Hukahu is an Australia Awards students in Adelaide.