26 Nov My MVP Journey – By Grace Diamond
Thank you for the opportunity to share my experience of the Veteran Mentor’s Program.
How I got there:
I’ll be honest. When my mum first mentioned that I was going to a military camp over the school holidays, my initial reaction was “NO!” She tried to reason with me and told me that it was important to her as I had poor communication skills and lacked respect. Also, I spent a lot of my time locked up in my room on the Internet. After coming to a compromise – aka mum bribing me with getting a new phone for Christmas, I eventually agreed to go.
On the first day, I arrived at the airport with all my gear. I spotted a man wearing army pants and straight away crouched down beside a vending machine and tried not to be noticed. My cover was blown, thanks to my stepdad who walked up to the Army man and started having a conversation with him. That led to me getting my name marked off on a role, and quite quickly I said my goodbyes to my family and hopped on a bus that took us to the camp location. When we arrived, we were told to line up with our suitcases, and each of us had to empty all of our belongings from them. Now, there was a packing list that I was supposed to follow, but I chose to pack what I thought I would need. Lesson number 1 – follow instructions because everything that wasn’t included on the list was to be put back in our suitcases and locked away. Luckily we were issued with all of our army clothes, so I guess I didn’t need any of the extra stuff anyway. We then took all of our belongings to our cabins and later attended a lesson about rules and our expected behaviour for the next eight days.
Day 2 & 3:
By days two and three, I learnt that 6:30 am was our wake up time… every day. I wasn’t a fan of this lesson because I’m used to waking up at 12 pm as a standard. After going through our new morning routines, including making our beds (again not normal for me), we then went for our extremely tough physical training (PT) sessions. On these days we also learnt how to line up as a platoon. All of our sections were collectively referred to as 5 Platoon, so whenever a leader called “ON PARADE 5 PLATOON” we would all have to repeat it and then run onto parade and stand in our section lines. There were five sections altogether, and I was in section 4 with Troy as my section leader. We also had a female instructor (Keiarna) that we called Ma’am. I appreciated having her there because even though she was tough like the other leaders, she was very caring and still checked up on me and all of the other girls in the cabin to make sure we were doing ok. Day two and three were probably the hardest days for me emotionally on the course. This is when I started to get homesick, and everyone and everything was getting on my nerves.
By day four we had a familiar routine, and although we didn’t like doing it, we did it anyway. It was just easier that way. A lot of thoughts did however, come to mind like “why we were being pushed so hard all the time”, “why this”, “why that?.” Even in PT, we had to run non-stop while carrying a battle rope the whole time. I had never pushed myself so hard physically before, but I didn’t give up. Looking at the leader’s during PT, they all seemed super fit, and they had obviously put a lot of time and effort into their bodies. This motivated me so much to get fit and healthy myself. Later this day, we also had a guest visit from two twin footballers that played for the Reds. They had a motivating chat with all of us, and we got to play footy and soccer with them. I enjoyed myself, but I was just ready for bed after all of the physical activity.
On day five we went on a trip to Planet Commando. I am terrified of heights, so I wasn’t keen on doing it at all. When we arrived, we got started straight away with rock climbing, which wasn’t too bad. We then started getting into the higher activities and I was still terrified! Troy took me aside and had a chat with me, which honestly helped me a lot. I did more activities than I thought I could have after our chat, and this made me feel proud of myself and thankful for Troy’s encouragement. At this point, I also began to see Troy in a different light from before. When I was first allocated to Troy’s section, I wasn’t thrilled because he seemed angry and ordered us to do things all the time. But after this day, I could see how passionate he is about his role as a mentor and that there was a purpose for everything he said and did.
Would you believe it, but today I actually I got up out of bed before anyone else and without command. I had time to do everything without being rushed. Today I realised that I was starting to enjoy myself on the course, we were allowed to create our own PT session and then practiced marching. In the evening, we took part in an amazing sound bowl meditation exercise. I think I speak for everyone here, but that was the most relaxed that some of us had felt in a long time and everyone was so happy after the experience. To add to the relaxation, when it was lights out and time to go to bed, Ma’am came into our room and took us through some guided muscle relaxation to help us get to sleep. It was so calming, and I felt as though all of the negative thoughts from my mind had cleared.
Today we got up super early to go skydiving. I wasn’t too worried about skydiving because I had done it before. We went to Kirra Beach while we were waiting for our turn to jump. We played football, beach games, did handstands and practiced gymnastics in the park with the instructors. When it was my section’s turn to skydive we were told that the plane had issues and needed to be fixed, so we were rescheduled to jump the following day. Even though this happened, there were smiles on everybody’s faces and regardless it was a day full of fun so I think that this day would have to be my favourite day on the program.
Skydiving, for real this time. I found out I was going to be jumping with Faith who is one of my friends I made on the program, so I was happy about that. We went over the safety brief and before we knew it, we found ourselves in a plane that was 1200m in the air. Then there was the jump, I can hardly explain how it feels, but there is nothing like it. It’s sensational; it gives you a new perspective on the world, it’s breathtaking in the best kind of way. By the end of the day, I realised just how close we were to the end of the course. I mean, we were marching out and going back to our families tomorrow. It was saddening to think that I had to say goodbye to all of the amazing friends I had made and bonded with during our time here. Before bedtime, we all exchanged social media accounts and contact information to keep in touch after the camp. Realistically, you can’t talk about the camp with your friends at home because they didn’t live the experience, so it was good to get everyone’s social media accounts because they would understand.
Woke up, made our beds, got dressed, had breakfast.
Today was the day that we were leaving.
“ON PARADE 5 PLATOON”
We ran onto parade and then got into our sections. We had all worked hard, so it felt pretty great when we were able to march out to the field where our parents were seated and watching eagerly. We lined up on the parade ground and ran through all of the drills that we had practiced. Eventually, we stood at ease waiting for awards to be called out. Then I heard “Best at physical training goes to Grace Diamond”. My heart thudded, and I was so proud of myself and everything that I had worked for. Even better though, the instructors noticed it and I got an award for it. It was a pretty great feeling. After the parade finished, I ran and hugged my family; it was a very emotional time. Good emotions though. We soon were released to pack our things and were able to go back home to our families. And that was it, I said goodbye to all of my friends, and I was off.
Key Learning’s & Thanks:
I learnt that my mum only had good intentions for sending me on this program. In fact, it was a blessing in disguise, and I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the Veteran Mentor’s Program. Throughout the program, I gained a lot of insight from my mentors Troy and Keiarna. They taught me about the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle and gave me the motivation to wake up, get up and work for the things I want in life. They also taught me useful communication skills to use in my day-to-day life and when building respectful relationships, particularly with my mum. From their guidance, I now have self-esteem and a direction for my future.
The Veteran Mentor program has helped me develop courage, resilience and respect for both others and myself. I now have a new outlook on my present and am looking forward to my future. I would like to thank all of the mentors for their guidance on the program, especially Troy and Keiarna for their dedication, tough love and kind guidance.
Grace Diamond xo