Tropical forest challenge
By LEIGH PRITCHARD
IT was the most gruelling experience in Lee Cheetham's life, and the best.
Cheetham, 20, was one of three Clarence Valley Army Reservists who spent three months training and patrolling in a Malaysian jungle.
He was in the 41st Battalion Royal New South Wales Regiment which patrolled an airport base in Malaysia as part of Rifle Company Butterworth (RDB).
Cheetham, of Grafton and Andrew Harrington, of Lawrence, returned to Australia on February 9. Another Army Reservist, Matthew Madden, of Ulmarra, will return shortly.
Cheetham said it took him time to adjust after he returned home.
"Over there you just live on rice," Cheetham said.
"It is very different, just getting used to different cultures."
Cheetham said the mateship in the Army Reserves was 'priceless'.
"It is not something you can describe, the boys are what make it," he said.
"They are not the type of blokes you meet anywhere, they can take the good with the bad."
Cheetham said it was hard work patrolling though swamp, jungle and hills 'rain, hail or shine' .
"It was very hot and wet ? we carried a 10-kilogram machine-gun and 30-kilogram pack," he said.
"I have never done anything harder in my life."
Since he joined in July 2004, he has travelled across Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand with the Army Reserve.
"I always wanted to join the army but I didn't have the commitment," Cheetham said.
He said he trained every Tuesday night and one weekend a month in weapons, fitness, navigation and first aid.
"We do 40 minutes to an hour of fitness before getting into uniform," Cheetham said.
"It is hard work, but fun."