Onehunga Builder Experiencing Military Life in the Jungle

7 October 2019

Onehunga builder Blayde Bullen has swapped the building sites of Auckland for the jungles of Malaysia for the next few weeks as he takes part in a large multinational military exercise.

Private Bullen is one of more than 50 New Zealand Army Reservists from all over the country taking part in Exercise Bersama Lima, a military exercise held each year involving forces from New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and the United Kingdom. These countries signed the Five Power Defence Arrangement in 1971 as a commitment to defence co-operation and regional stability in South East Asia.

It is hardly surprising Private Bullen joined the Reserves, given his strong family links to the military. His great-uncle is a former Commanding Officer of 3/6 Battalion and served in the Second World War, while his grandfather was an Army engineer and his grandmother worked in Signals during that war, his uncle served in the New Zealand SAS in Vietnam, and his father was in the Army in the 1970s. 

The top recruit of his Basic Training course, Private Bullen has never regretted signing up.

“As well as the family history, I joined the Reserves for the sense of adventure,” he said. “It allows me to indulge in my love of the outdoors while getting paid for it and learning amazing skills.

“And being part of a section of soldiers patrolling through the bush is just exhilarating. The soldier to my left might be a doctor in his day job, whereas the soldier to my right might be an electrician. You establish such great comradery with like-minded individuals.”

As a Reservist he has also had the chance to see areas of New Zealand he would never have been able to see or even known about, such as the spectacular Waiouru Military Training Area.

“My first time waking up among the tussock to see Mt Ruapehu in the background as the sun rose over the desert is a memory I will never forget,” he said.

Now he is getting to see other parts of the world, and is excited to be taking part in Exercise Bersama Lima.

“It is such a great opportunity to travel to Malaysia and take part in an international exercise with our ally and partner nations,” he said. “It is a chance to forge new friendships and build on skills that we are already learning, such as how to navigate tough terrain, how to treat an injured soldier, survival techniques, weapons handling, leadership principles and self-sufficiency.”

Exercise Bersama Lima, from 29 September to 19 October, is usually based in Singapore and takes place in the South China Sea and around the Malaysian Peninsular. It involves Royal New Zealand Navy, New Zealand Army, and Royal New Zealand Air Force units and supporting units conducting training with Five Power Defence Arrangement air, land and maritime assets.

Members of the New Zealand Army Reserve regularly work and train alongside their Regular Force counterparts in New Zealand and overseas. Their military training also strengthens the leadership, resilience, teamwork and focus they bring to their civilian roles – benefitting their employers and their communities.

This page was last reviewed on 7 October 2019.