16 September 2022

Kapooka VIP Challenge gives employers a taste of life as Army reservists

| Chris Roe
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Major Wendy DeLuca says both reservists and employers benefit from a supportive work relationship. Photo: Chris Roe.

It’s a cold, wet afternoon at Kapooka and a group in camo coats are soldiering on through the rain, preparing to throw themselves off a 20-metre tower.

The 15 would-be abseilers are not soldiers, but representatives from various companies taking part in the two-day Kapooka VIP Challenge.

“Today we’ve welcomed about 16 employers of reservists or supporters of reservists to Kapooka Blamey barracks,” explains Maylee Madrid from the Directorate of ADF Reserves and Employer Support.

“It’s all about employers getting some inside knowledge of what their reservists go through.”

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Across Australia, there are about 38,700 reservists and more than 1,400 supportive employers.

It’s the first time the ADF has hosted the event since 2019 and Ms Madrid says there are representatives from a range of national and local companies.

“We really want to cultivate that strong relationship between reservists and employer and also the unit as well,” she explains.

“In the last two or three years they’ve been called upon more than ever, and it is taxing on not only the reservists but also on the employer, so it’s vital for everyone to feel supported and to understand what we do.”


Colonel Andrew Deacon (right) welcomes the VIPs to Kapooka. Photo: Chris Roe.

The VIPs began the day watching recruits go through the gruelling ‘bayonet course’, splashing through water in the cold and working their way through obstacles.

They were then issued with camouflage uniforms and put through their paces.

“They got dressed up in the cams and taught how to march which is always interesting,” smiles Ms Madrid.

“It’s like learning how to walk again and learning how to move to all the commands, they found it very challenging.”

Then it was on to the tower, where the VIPs are encouraged to challenge themselves and descend the tower on a rope.

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Watching on, is Major Wendy DeLuca, an Army reservist and education officer whose day job is as an adult and vocational educator at CSU.

“I think it’s essential that they get an understanding of what their staff are doing with the Army Reserves,” she explains.

“If you’ve got a supportive employer, then you’re more likely to be able to take advantage of that and then the reservist becomes both a loyal worker and a great reservist because they get opportunities as well.

“It’s a win for both the organizations and for the individual who’s the reservist.”


The VIPs soldier on through the rain. Photo: Chris Roe.

Ms Madrid agrees that it’s important to foster supportive employers who recognise the benefits reservists can bring to their business.

“They get leadership skills, they get teamwork and team building experience,” she says.

“After they do go on training or deployment employers can see the growth and experience when they get back.”

But in the meantime, the next challenge for the VIPs is the tower!

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