Kids? Army ... Kate Bruce (in black) and Katie Larkey (in blue) leave civvie street behind to form up and try out some military
Kids? Army ... Kate Bruce (in black) and Katie Larkey (in blue) leave civvie street behind to form up and try out some military

Youth backs kids' army plan

By BELINDA SCOTT

KATE Bruce says she would consider it, Ellie Lambert says she wouldn't interrupt her travel plans for it and Hayden Mingaye is already up to his bootstraps in it.

It is the nation's defence forces and the three Coff Coast Year 12 students are all responding to plans by the Australian Government to offer school leavers a 'gap year' serving in the Army, Navy or Air Force, instead of requiring them to sign on for at least four years.

The government hopes the 'try before you buy' project will entice more young people into longer-term careers in the defence forces.

"If I couldn't get into the uni course I want then I would consider it," said Kate Bruce, who is studying for the Higher School Certificate exams, which begin on Thursday, and hoping to study nursing at university next year.

"It would keep me on my toes and you get paid for it. The only thing I was worrying about was getting stuck in it." Fellow Christian Community College student Katie Larkey would also give the Army a go for the experience, some qualifications, the pay and the opportunity to do something for her country.

"But it would be a bit of a scary thought if they wanted us to go to Iraq or somewhere and we were inexperienced," Katie said.

Ellie Lambert is getting stuck into the books this week and like Kate, she says she'll take a year off if she doesn't get into one of the occupational therapy courses she's applied for, but the Bishop Druitt College student is very interested in spending her year travelling, so the uniformed life doesn't appeal.

"At the end of the day it depends on the student," Ellie said.

"They are lucky to have so many options.

For Hayden Mingaye, the choice is already made.

The Year 12 Bellingen High School student is also an Army Reserve soldier and is planning to realise a long-held plan and enter the Navy full time when he finishes his HSC and he's not scared by the prospect of the four-year stint.

"I think (the 12-month stint) is an interesting idea," Hayden said.

"Trust Defence to come up with an exciting new way of propagating more soldiers. I'd consider it, but I'm already going full time into the Navy. I've always been fascinated by the military.

"Most people don't like the idea of the four years ? you can actually get out after 90 days, but if you stay in a bit longer, you're stuck. It's not that cheap to go overseas for a gap year, but with the Navy you get to sail around the Pacific."

The 12-month program will begin in 2008, so students studying Year 12 next year will be the first to be offered this choice.

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has stressed the program is not the first step towards national conscription but has not ruled out the possibility that the inexperienced school leavers might end up being deployed on overseas missions during their year of training.



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