Experience. Life has changed dramatically for Private Sidney Stokes since joining the Australian Defence Force.
Enlisting in the Australian Army last year, she has pushed her limits, experienced unexpected things and reached incredible feats.
After spending time at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra for work experience, the idea sparked and continued to ignite.
“The more I looked into it, the more interested I became,” she says.
“I wanted to challenge myself . . . this was something I wanted to be a part of.”
She set out for Blamey Barracks in Kapooka, New South Wales in June for a seven week preconditioning program of personal training and fitness as well as an introduction into military life.
On August 8 she began 80 days of basic training.
“The first week they try to break you and scare you,” she says.
Given 15 minutes to complete a rigorous morning routine, Private Stokes says the platoon needed much longer than this to perfect upon first go. However after close to six months of training the time dwindled down to eight minutes and 40 seconds in which the platoon was to rip the sheets from the beds to make from scratch and ready themselves.
“It was so intense. I was waking up and my arms and legs were shaking – the adrenaline and nerves. I was scared but excited!”
It was hard work – rewarding yes, but not without battles.
“Some days were tough. I missed home, especially not being able to contact my family.
“But that’s when I would think about why I was there and my end goal.”
Each week the platoon was introduced to a new element in their training; first aid, weapons and basic drills among them.
“There are strict ways to do everything,” Private Stokes says.
“Everything you learn at the start, links in to when you go out in the field into a tactical scenario. Even the morning routine.”
Whilst undertaking basic training, her platoon was struck with an influenza outbreak and quarantined for three weeks, an isolating and tedious three weeks.
The average day consisted of a 6am wake up call where the platoon was to complete its morning routine before housekeeping and breakfast. Most days, the mornings were spent in personal training followed by lunch then an afternoon of studying or learning their weekly focus.
Dinner followed, and recruits were given an hour for personal time – to phone or write home.
In November, after close to six months away from her family Private Stokes completed her basic training in a march out parade.
“It was very surreal. I had been there for so long,” she says.
“The families sat in the grandstand while we had to stand to attention – it was so emotional, for everyone.
“Going to the army, I wanted to show my younger brother and sister that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. You are capable of a lot more than what you think you are.”
Now, Private Stokes prepares to set off on her next adventure in Albury, Victoria where she will train to become a medic with hopes to work in both the field and hospital.
“Looking back, it is a big thing and something that I am proud to have accomplished.”