A NSW resident who hails from Myanmar says a lifelong desire to join the army motivated him to become a part-time soldier.
CAPTION: Australian Army soldier Private Mesak Hlawng Sang during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023. Story by Major Jesse Robilliard. Photo by Corporal Michael Currie.
Private Mesak Hlawng Sang, from the 41st Battalion, Royal NSW Regiment, was born in Myanmar, Chin state.
“My family were refugees. First, we were in Malaysia; we were there for eight months and then we came to Australia in 2008,” Private Hlawng Sang said.
Settling in Coffs Harbour, on the mid-north coast, he lists the beach as the highlight of his hometown.
Private Hlawng Sang joined the Army reserve in January 2019.
“I always wanted to join the Defence Force, particularly the Army; I just always had an interest in it,” he said.
The member of 41st Battalion has managed to fit a lot into his short Army career.
“I went to Malaysia, Rifle Company Butterworth rotation 138,” Private Hlawng Sang said.
“We did some jungle training and some urban training in Singapore for 10 days.
“I was fortunate enough to gain some high-explosive qualifications, we also did one week out field in the jungle; I really enjoyed it.”
Private Hlawng Sang deployed to Ingham during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2024, as part of Battle Group Waratah, mostly made up of NSW-based Army reservists.
In the exercise scenario, Private Hlawng Sang helped the battle group conduct protection operations, securing the Herbert River town from role-playing militia groups from the regular Army.
“I have never done such a major exercise before; it was a real eye opener,” he said.
“The scenarios were very realistic. I have never experienced anything like with the enemy role players before from the regular Army; they really brought their A game.”
Private Hlawng Sang was thankful for the warm reception from the residents of Ingham.
“I think they really enjoyed seeing us around. Everyone was really friendly. Locals were waving, saying hello – it was good.”
His advice for anyone considering joining the Army Reserves is it’s a worthwhile experience.
“You get great opportunities to do things that you wouldn’t normally do in your civilian life,” he said.