Private Michael Amhaz
Early in the New Year the young karate instructor will be wearing his Army uniform and heading for East Timor. He won’t be back until next October.
“I did a Gap Year in the Army in 2008,” said Michael, 21. “Then I dropped out of computer science at uni and I’ve been a full-time reservist for a year now.
“I’m in the 5th/6th Battalion, Royal Victorian Regiment and we reservists are very proud of it — it has more battle honours that any full-time regiment!
“We all trained as riflemen, but in my section of 12 men I’m now the section gunner — the one with the Minimi light support weapon.
“As part of our training we’ve been told what to expect over there — a big culture shock for a start plus a new language.
“My parents Rima and Bachar were born in the Lebanon,” said Michael. ‘It was an old French colony so I can get by in French, but the East Timorese language is Tetum — very different.
“Most of us can speak it now, and our job supporting the local police will be patrolling and just talking to the locals — seeing what’s going on. We’ve been told to expect gentle and well-mannered people — but we train for the worst, just to be on the safe side.
“I’m expecting to come back with renewed fitness, but also a good understanding of a different language and culture. I’m also hoping for a greater maturity — less sheltered, and a year older.
“I’ll also have a big deposit for a house — which should please my girlfriend Emma! Then the plan is to get back to university and keep building my career.
“But I’m already looking forward to that first bourbon. It will be at home with the family — so I don’t have too far to get to bed.”
The Australian-led International Stabilisation Force is in-country at the invitation of the East Timorese government to be prepared to support East Timorese and United Nations security forces to maintain a secure and stable environment.
All reservists are volunteers and have to volunteer again to serve overseas. Reserves can also support security within Australia at major events such as the Commonwealth Games or Heads of Government visits.