You might not know it, but Lee Brooks is leading two lives.
By day, the 37-year-old chippie drives long-haul trucks interstate.
But behind the steering wheel, the Tumut truckie is also a soldier.
Mr Brooks, a rifleman at the 1st/19th Battalion Royal NSW Regiment, last year fulfilled a childhood dream to join the army.
But he did not have to give up his home or job to do it. Private Brooks is a reservist; a member of the part-time army.
Pte Brooks shared the inspiration steering his two lives, ahead of the regiment’s open day on Tuesday, August 28.
Wagga residents, 17-years and older, have been invited to attend the obligation-free information night, with demonstrations, presentations, activities and displays running from 7pm.
Private Brooks said a trip to Gallipoli in 2016 became the driving force behind a decision to follow in his family’s boot-steps.
One year later, following five-weeks training, he marched out of Kapooka.
“I always wanted to be a soldier,” Private Brooks said. “Ever since I was a little kid playing war with my mates.”
I always wanted to be a soldier. Ever since I was a little kid playing war with my mates.Lee Brooks
Outside of the additional tax-free income, the 37-year-old said he felt a strong sense of pride whenever he wore the green army uniform.
“It means a lot to me,” Pte Brooks said. “I’m giving back something to my country.”
But above all else, he said the mates he had made in the military had become like family.
The sentiment was echoed by fellow reservists, 19-year-old university student Ryan Haste and Wagga draughtsman Glenn Mellis.
A veterinary science student at CSU, Mr Haste said he had wanted to escape the mountain of books and assignments when he joined the army reserves as a rifleman.
“It’s been really rewarding,” Pte Haste said.
“You learn things that help with your civilian life, like discipline and mental resilience.
“Basic training is not about the achievements, but about how far you can push yourself to get there.”
For that reason, Pte Haste encouraged others to step up and sign up.
Warrant Officer (Second Class) Mason, the 1st/19th’s Company Sergeant Major, said its 60-odd members made up “Wagga’s own little group of soldiers”.
But WOII Mason said the regiment always needed more recruits.
While the Wagga depot – part of the Regional Bushman’s Rifle Company – is an infantry-focused regiment, WOII Mason said there were plenty of other roles to be filled.
“It’s a chance to do something different and step outside your comfort zone,” WOII Mason said.
“It gives you the opportunity to diversify and do something different to your day-to-day jobs … to learn skills you wouldn’t normally have.”
He said the regiment was heavily involved in the Wagga community and was always busy, with troops historically sent to assist with local flooding, cyclones in Queensland, Black Friday bush fires in Victoria and the tsunami in Indonesia.
This year, he said reservists from Wagga would be deployed to the Invictus Games in Sydney.
“The days of the reserve army of old are no more,” WOII Mason said.
“Reserve soldiers are fully trained and far more capable and equipped than ever.”