Regina Murray and Sallyanne Nilco are friends in arms.
The two best friends from the Northern Territory — Murray is from Darwin and Nilco from Batchelor — are on the adventure of a lifetime after signing up as soldiers-in-training with Norforce, the Australian army’s surveillance and reconnaissance unit for remote northern Australia.
The pair, both aged 18, are currently training in Western Australia’s Kimberley for the roles they will take up protecting Australia’s coastline when they return to their communities later this month.
They have spent the last few weeks learning navigation and map reading, getting in peak physical condition and also studying maths and literacy. They now have their sights set on learning to drive army reconnaissance vehicles.
“We want to show other ladies that nothing is impossible,” Nilco says. “If you want something, never stop trying and if you fall just get up again and try harder.”
The pair signed up as soldiers together — Murray inspired by her Croation grandfather who served in World War II and Nilco because she wanted to see social change in her community and because she likes adventure.
The former school chums sleep in the same dormitory, wear matching uniforms and urge each other on.
Although they are a minority — women make up only about six of the 25 soldiers in training — that hasn’t stopped them from becoming the first women in their families to tackle the roles. When they graduate they will both be reservists at the Larrakeyah Barracks in Darwin.
Australian army warrant officer Paul Harrison says Norforce reservists are important to protecting Australia’s northern coastline.
“They look predominantly for illegal fishing, illegal drugs coming in, as well as illegal people smuggling,” he says.