Hard work led to quieter tour
LANCE CORPORAL John Heuvel doesn't allow himself even a hint of pride as he says he hasn't been called out once to quell the violence on this rotation in the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara.
We're chatting in GBR, the military base in the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara where the Australian Defence Reserves have led a successful Pacific nations peacekeeping mission.
It wasn't long after the peacekeeping force was invited in by the Solomon Government in 2003 that the then 19-year-old Heuvel did his first rotation.
It was vastly different then. Machete-wielding ethnic gangs controlled much of the country, the police had chosen sides, the government was corrupt and the army non-existent.
It was the amplified lyrics of "Bad Boy" that would announce the arrival of heavily armed Reservists in trucks.
It was hoped the intimidating music would help quell the often-murderous gangs.
"The region is a lot more stable," Heuvel said.
"We don't have as much to do because the police (who are being trained by the Australian Federal Police) are doing a better job.
"Our role now is purely a worst-case scenario if there is a riot or some sort of emergency. Last time there was a lot more community engagement. We would go out and actively patrol and make sure every- body knew we were there."
"We don't do that now and I would like to think somehow we did contribute to the stability."
Heuvel, whose mother Linda works at Kyogle Hospital, joined the Reserves almost seven years ago to try "something different".
"I was in Cairns at the time and I went along to one session to see what it was like," he said.
"I did the hardest PT (personal training) in my life and I learnt about different types of weapons. I joined that night and have never looked back."
"I guess I was growing up at the time and it helped me to mature. I enjoyed the responsibilities and did it as much as I could. Also, it's good money, particularly when you are a student."
Currently studying to be an aviation engineer, Heuvel intends to return to full-time study once his rotation ends in about a month.
Still, he will keep up at least a basic commitment in the Reserves.
He would miss the mateship too much if he gave it away, he said.