By day Marika Boelen can be found out and about working as a surveyor but by night is a Lieutenant with 3rd Field Squadron, a part of 10th/27th Battalion, Royal South Australia Regiment as a Reservist.
Joining the military was something that was always in the back of Ms Boelen’s mind, but it wasn’t until she saw an advert on television one night that she decided to take the next step and see if a career in the Defence Force was for her.
“It was always in the back of my mind, but it wasn’t until I wanted a new challenge at work that I really considered joining as a viable option,” Ms Boelen said.
Ms Boelen has served as a Combat Engineer Troop Commander, leading and managing up to 30 combat engineers. Currently she is posted as the Mobility Support Troop Commander where she leads 18 plant operators and manages a range of plant equipment.
Ms Boelen said it was the sense of community and being able to give back and help people in need which appealed to her.
In January 2020 Ms Boelen deployed as a troop commander on Kangaroo Island as part of Operation Bushfire Assist 19/20.
For four weeks she worked as a Combat Engineer and Plant Troop Commander where she led up to 30 people who completed tasks including felling of unsafe trees, clearing roads and access, firebreak clearing, supplying water to the CFS and community and assisting with livestock burial.
“I think for most people, we join as a way to help others and as a result of Bushfire Assist and Covid Assist, reservists have actually been able to do that in a real and tangible way.
“When reservists were deployed on OP Bushfire Assist 19/20, it was the first time in history all reservists were called up and deployed full time to assist.
“The fires were so far reaching and devastating across the whole country that we were all needed at the same time to go and help people in the most devastating of situations.
People often ask her what it’s like being a woman in the Army and to them Ms Boelen says that in the Army you are judged on your merit, not your gender. If you’re a good leader, you will be treated accordingly and have the respect of those around you.
“For me it is the people that make the experiences I have had as a reservist so incredible.
“When I tell people I am a reservist people usually love or hate the fact I am in the military. But we really are regular people who want to do some good. We defend people who can’t defend themselves and help people who are in need.”
In her civilian life Ms Boelen works as a surveyor and said while that was not necessarily the plan when she first started looking at university courses, she is incredibly happy with her decision.
“I love being a surveyor because I am not stuck behind a desk all the time and I have been able to travel to some pretty remarkable places in Australia, including Broome, Uluru, Darwin and the APY Lands as a result.
“I am sent out to survey areas ready for infrastructure works– whether that is a house or a road we have to go in and map the area so the engineers and architects know what and where they can build.”
And if that wasn’t enough to fill in her days, in her spare time Ms Boelen enjoys a vast number of hobbies including hiking, surfing and dress making.
“My great grandmother on both sides of my family were seamstresses and that skill has been handed down through the women in my family to me.
“I love creating dresses and I think it is my creative outlet. I don’t like following patterns and just enjoy the creative process that comes with making a dress.”
Ms Boelen’s story is part of an ongoing story telling series by Veterans SA. To read more stories of how those with military experience living in South Australia are contributing to our community click here.