Reservists are men and women who want to do something exciting, challenging and rewarding on the occasional weekend, weekly evenings, or days off work and give something back to the broader community.
Each week groups of young men and women gather at the various Army depots in North and Central Queensland to attend training parades or exercises. They are citizen soldiers who form part of today’s Army Reserve. They come from all walks of life, trades and professions, but share in a common bond of comradeship and spirit of service. They proudly serve in the 31st/42nd Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment, known as 31/42 RQR.
31/42 RQR has existed in one form or another for over a century. Various re-organisations throughout its long history have given it a number of varied titles, but its link with North Queensland and Townsville has remained constant since 1886. In that year, various independent volunteer military companies were gazetted as members of the Queensland Defence Force and formed into the Third Queensland, or Kennedy Regiment. Last year, 31/42 RQR, as the modern incarnation of the Kennedy Regiment, celebrated its 130th Birthday.
In the years to follow its formation the Kennedy Regiment lived up to its motto ‘Semper Paratus Defendere’ (Always Ready to Defend). Many of its members were to serve in the Boer War to earn the unit’s first battle honour – ‘South Africa 1901’.
Northerners can take pride in the fact that the Kennedy Regiment was the first Australian infantry unit mobilised for service at the outbreak of World War One, when it was dispatched to Thursday Island to protect Australia’s northern defences.
The Kennedy Regiment provided the bulk of the soldiers formed into the 31st Battalion, Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) which gained many battle honours during World War One, in places such as the Somme, Ypres and Polygon Wood. In September 1917, Private Patrick Bugden of the 31st won a Victoria Cross in the terrible advance on Polygon Wood.
In World War Two, the 2/31st Battalion was formed as part of the Second AIF. It saw service in the sands of North Africa, the rock strewn hills of Syria and the jungles of New Guinea and Borneo and was awarded many battle honours. On 10 July 1941, during an attack on ‘Greenhill’ north of Jezzine, Private James Gordon won the Victoria Cross. The current-day 31/42 RQR training facility and Soldiers’ Club proudly bears the name of ‘Jimmy Gordon’.
While the 2/31st was formed overseas, the 31st Militia Battalion was training in Australia focusing on the Defence of Townsville and its surrounds. In 1942, as the war in the Pacific progressed, Townsville transformed into a highly fortified garrison city packed with American and Australian servicemen. During the period 1943 – 45, the 31st was linked with the 51st Battalion and saw action in New Guinea and Bougainville. The 31/51st was awarded four battle honours in its short history including one for the Battle of Porton Plantation where it suffered many casualties.
After World War Two, the 31st was reformed as part of the Citizen Military Forces with its headquarters in Townsville. The Battalion has been through many reorganisations and undertaken various roles since World War Two but has always maintained its presence in the Townsville region. In 2008, it was amalgamated with the 42nd Battalion (Capricornia Regiment) based in Central Queensland thus leading to its current organisation of 31/42 RQR.
31/42 RQR has Depots in Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton and Gladstone and is part of the Queensland Army Reserve Brigade – the 11th Brigade. Its current role is to reinforce the 3rd Brigade which is the regular Army Brigade based in Townsville. Due to need to be interoperable with Regular Army units, 31/42 RQR soldiers often train with 3 Brigade soldiers and are issued the same equipment. The modern day Army Reserve is well resourced, equipped and trained to undertake its role of reinforcing the Regular Army. Many Reservists volunteer for operational deployments, demonstrating the same spirit that soldiers of the battalion have had since 1886.
31/42 RQR and the 11th Brigade are currently on a recruiting campaign and have a number of different roles available. Service in the Army Reserve allows you to stay in your local area and still experience the benefits of being in the Army.
It is a fulfilling part-time job that offers tax free pay and great training opportunities.
If you are interested in joining the Army Reserve, you can contact Defence Force Recruiting on 131901 or via their website at Defencejobs.gov.au/Army Reserve.
You can also visit the 11th Brigade Recruiting Centre at the Western entrance of Lavarack Barracks, University Drive, Townsville on any Tuesday night from 6 pm.
Private Alex Ford
A career as a Registered Nurse and service in the Army Reserve keeps Alex Ford well and truly on the move.
Alex, who completed a Bachelor of Nursing degree at Central Queensland University, serves as a Rifleman in Bravo Company of the 31st/42nd Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment, based at Lavarack Barracks.
He was raised and schooled in Mackay and Rockhampton, and joined the Army Reserve when he was 17 years old.
“I joined while I was still in high school, and finished basic training before I’d even graduated from Year 12,” Alex said. “I wanted to learn new skills and have an adventure. I also just wanted to do my bit for my country.”
“I wanted to learn new skills and have an adventure. I also just wanted to do my bit for my country.” PRIVATE ALEX FORD
He said Reserve service had given him skills he’d always wanted to acquire, including the ability to survive in harsh environments and to be ‘the best I can be.’
“The Reserve has helped me in doing all these things. It’s also made me more appreciative of the things in life that I used to take for granted.”
Alex said he would definitely recommend an Army Reserve career to those considering part-time service in the Australian Defence Force. “It offers the best of both worlds – experiences you would not have in any other part-time job. The Reserve also provides you with the flexibility to have your own life.
“Like anything, you get back what you put in. If you join the Reserve, the more time you can dedicate to it, the more rewards you’ll get from it.
“I’ve had the privilege of being an Army Reservist for ten years and I look forward to ten more.”
Corporal Cathren Hawker
Service in the Regular Army as part of the Australian Defence Force Gap Year program led to Cathren Hawker continuing her military career part-time after her full-time commitment had ended.
Cathren, a Registered Nurse with Queensland Health, is a soldier in the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps (RAAOC) and serves as a logistics specialist with the 31st/42 Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment, at Lavarack Barracks.
She transferred to the Army Reserve after completing her Gap Year following high school in South Australia. “I transferred to the Reserves while I studied and have since paraded at many different units around Australia. I was initially drawn to the Reserves because of the tax-exempt income, but have since stayed nine years later for many other reasons,” Cathren said.
A state-level award (South Australian Regional RAAOC Soldier of the Year) and a two-week attachment to the New Zealand Army have been career highlights, as have been the friendships made. “I was able to work, live and train alongside the equivalent rank and trade in the New Zealand Army as well as fitting in some serious sightseeing,” she said.
The flexibility offered by the Army Reserve and the support of her employer drew strong praise from Cathren. “Initially I worked Reserves around my university studies. I’d work weekends and Tuesday nights, plus some extras as needed. I’d also attend exercises and courses during the holidays.
“After I graduated and started working as a nurse, I reduced my commitment to Tuesday nights, but made use of the Defence leave that my employer offers in order to attend courses.”
Cathren recently returned to the workforce after a year’s maternity leave, and was able to arrange flexible work arrangements with the Reserve, working a different schedule while fulfilling her training commitment. She will also access her employer’s Defence leave to attend a major training exercise later this year.
Sergeant Grant Lowien
As a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer in the Army Reserve, Grant Lowien is a leader – a platoon sergeant in the 31st/42nd Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment at Lavarack Barracks.
The former Regular Army soldier previously served in the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, (2 RAR), deploying to the Solomon Islands and twice to East Timor.
“I joined the Army because I’d always had an interest in the military. My father served in the military and was also a Reservist,” Grant said.
He said transferring to the Reserve gave full-time soldiers the chance to still feel part of the team. “It’s the best thing for those leaving full-time service,” he said. “You meet great people, and get to network with them. Those serving in the Army Reserve environment have so many different roles.
“Friends you make here are friends for life.”
Grant, a Custodial Correctional Officer, said working full-time and serving in the Reserve was a challenge at times, but this was overcome by planning and good communication with his employer.
“You get really good at time management – it’s about balance. If you focus and have the drive to do it, you’ll find a way.”
He listed the benefits of Reserve service as great training, mateship and teamwork, the development of leadership skills, physical and mental fitness, self-discipline, flexible work arrangements and challenging activities that “pushed the boundaries, both personally and within the team.”
Private Troy Ogilvie
Mateship, learning new skills and the chance to improve his physical fitness inspired Townsville’s Troy Ogilvie to join the Army Reserve as a Rifleman in the 31st/42nd Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment.
Troy, a former Regular Army soldier who was raised and schooled in Townsville, is employed at the Port of Townsville. He says Army Reserve service fits in well with his work and family commitments.
He said the decision to join was influenced by some mates who were in the Army Reserve. “They were having a good time, learning, improving their skills and physical fitness and we can all do with a little of that,” Troy said. “I’ve only been in the Reserves a short time, although in this time I’ve completed a two week course in Perth and some other small courses up and down the east coast.”
He said the Army Reserve had also helped bring his soldier-skills back up to speed after the break in his military career.
When asked what Reserve service had given him, Troy summed it up as “good times.”
“Smiles, laughs, improved bush skills, physical fitness – all those, plus it’s inspired me to try and improve myself.
“I’d definitely recommend the Army Reserve to anyone considering part-time service in the ADF.”