Gladstone military man nearly hits 3 decades of service

IT WAS a warm Tuesday night when a young Major Ed Dahlheimer descended into the officers' dark and dingy office to enlist in the army 28 years ago.

He was led into the room and stood in front of his new unit's colours to swear an oath of service, on the bible, to serve his country.

Almost three decades later and Major Dahlheimer still recalls the moment clearly even though he was only 19.

"I remember it was stuffy inside the office in Rockhampton at the old Archer St depot," Major Dahlheimer said.

"I had always wanted to join the army but I was misdiagnosed with a medical condition, psoriasis, and the regular army wouldn't accept me, so I joined the reserves."

There hasn't been a day since Major Dahlheimer has regretted "signing his life away to the army" in what has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of his life.

This week Major Dahlheimer celebrated his 28 years of service which also happened to fall on a Tuesday. Since, he has risen through the ranks to become the commanding officer of the unit he joined as a teen.

When Major Dahlheimer enlisted, the army reserves wore the same green as the regulars and it was during the Vietnam War era.

He remembers they carried the same weapons as the Vietnam veterans, a standard issue self-loading rifle, and Major Dahlheimer gave the regulars a run for their money in joint competitions.

"I'd say one of my biggest achievements was when I was a section commander and I won the divisional military skills competition two years in a row, in 1994 in Rockhampton and then again in 1995 when I moved to Gladstone.

"There were nine of us competing against a regular army unit," he said.

Major Dahlheimer added the army had changed since he joined, with recruitment now centralised reducing the personal connection for each town.

But his unit was trying to bring that back through regional information session. "I have no regrets about my choices and hope others find the army as rewarding as I have."