Sapper returns to her Pacific roots

Exercise Puk Puk is a homecoming for Australian Army combat engineer Sapper Ingrid Reitermeier, who grew up in Papua New Guinea.

CAPTION: Australian Army Sapper Ingrid Reitermeier, right, works alongside Papua New Guinea Defence Force and British Army soldiers on site during Exercise Puk Puk at Goldie River Training Depot in Papua New Guinea. Story by Major Jesse Robilliard. Photo by Sergeant Nunu Campos.

This year, engineers from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF), Australian Army and British Army are working together to increase bonds, build relationships and develop trade skills while improving existing infrastructure at the Goldie River Training Depot near Port Moresby.

Sapper Reitermeier was born in Brisbane, but spent 10 years of her life in PNG until she was 13.

“My mum is from Goroka. Growing up we lived 23 kilometres outside of Goroka with my mum’s side of the family,” Sapper Reitermeier said.

“My parents had a business here in PNG. It was great growing up in the mountains and hanging out with the cousins.”

When Sapper Reitermeier finished her schooling in Brisbane at Clontarf Beach State School, she completed a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering at Queensland University of Technology.

She began working as a project engineer before joining the Army Reserve as a signaller in 2005.

“Because of work commitments, I didn’t really have a lot of time to commit,” Sapper Reitermeier said.

“Combat engineering then became open to women and I wanted to take the opportunity.”

In 2021, Sapper Reitermeier enlisted in the Army full-time, conducting her Initial Employment Training in July before posting to the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment (3CER) in September.

3CER and the rest of the Townsville-based 3rd Brigade have strong ties to the PNGDF that are regularly reinforced through training, capability and people-to-people engagements through Australia’s Defence Cooperation Program.

“One of the reasons why I wanted 3CER is because of my background in this country, and my understanding is that they partner a lot with PNG,” Sapper Reitermeier said.

Sapper Reitermeier is also putting her language skills to good use while on Exercise Puk Puk.

“I think I have made a difference with my ability to help the team communicate with the locals,” she said.

“The PNGDF soldiers have been engineering, on average, five years, so I think they have a lot of experience that will come out as they get an opportunity.

“It has been really fulfilling for me in a way. It feels like coming home because I grew up here.”

As part of Wairopi Troop, Sapper Reitermeier is helping to construct an inert demolition range and a classroom at the depot’s Field Engineer Wing.

She’s also looking forward to improving conditions for local kids who attend the school.

“There is a children’s playground next to the school down there. It’s pretty run down, and some equipment has been broken, we’ll fix that up,” Sapper Reitermeier said.

“There is a little footbridge that I am pretty excited to work on with my engineering and construction background.”

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CAPTION: Australian Army Sapper Ingrid Reitermeier on-site during Exercise Puk Puk at Goldie River Training Depot in Papua New Guinea. Photo by Sergeant Nunu Campos.





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