Members of the public got a rare opportunity when the Puckapunyal Military Area opened its gates for a day in early April.
About 1000 people from across regional Victoria and Melbourne made the trip for a unique opportunity to see what was inside the restricted-entry base.
Commandant of the Combined Arms Training Centre Colonel Patrick Davison said the open day had grown from the original plan to connect on-base families with local community business and activities.
“As the planning progressed, we broadened the open day to welcome members of the public who rarely get to see inside the Puckapunyal base,” Colonel Davison said.
“I was very grateful that so many people chose to spend their Saturday with us, and I was especially proud of some of Army’s newest men and women, who did such a fantastic job hosting our guests.”
The Aisbett family made the trip from Bendigo, as dad Lucas was keen to show his family where he used to serve until 2006, and may be posted to again when he re-enlists as a nursing officer.
His wife, Nerissa, said he had been “really keen to show us what it is all about”.
“We’ve really loved the open day. It’s been awesome. Everyone has been so friendly and Lucas has been catching up with plenty of mates. We’ve all had fun but the best bit was the ride [in the PMV],” she said.
Their children weren’t so sure, with opinion divided whether the bumps during the cross-country section of the ride were fun or not.
Six-year-old Julian gave it the thumbs up, seeking an even greater thrill in the future.
“When I grow up I’ll join the Army so I can drive tanks,” Julian said.
Henry Rogers, of Melbourne, said he attended to get a closer look and narrow down his interests for a career with Army.
“I’ve been sitting on the fence with what I’d like to do with Army,” he said.
“I’m thinking engineering, something technical. The gap year program looks good too.
“Joining the Army is something that I’ve always been interested in. I like getting my hands dirty. It appeals as there is a whole other aspect that is different to civilian life; you get to go out and do things you normally wouldn’t be able to.
Alanah Purtell, Programs Coordinator for the Puckapunyal and District Neighbourhood Centre, said the day enabled them to speak directly to families about ways they could provide support.
“It can be difficult for military families who may feel isolated in new postings like Puckapunyal, so our role in the community is really important.
“We want these families to have a space where they can build connections and feel they are a part of something. Events like today’s open day help new families in the area learn more about what we do.
“It’s been great to see so many families turning up. We’ve set up an area for the kids to play and parents to get off their feet, as it’s the best demonstration of what we do at the neighbourhood house. We’ve really enjoyed the chance to engage with everyone.”