18yo skips P-plates and moves straight to military tanks
SHE may not have her car licence yet but former Warwick student Claire Kelly isn't going to let a little thing like that stop her from driving some of the biggest and most expensive military tanks in the country.
The teen has just completed her three months' recruit training in Kapooka, New South Wales and is ready to crush her next challenge.
Trooper Kelly is now undertaking her armoured corps training, in which she will learn to drive million-dollar tanks and fire heavy machinery.
While she has come out smiling - and a lot stronger - on the other side, it wasn't an easy feat.
The teenager's mother, Anne Maree said her daughter had some difficult days but she battled through them and the good far outweighed the bad.
"She has never said 'I can't do it' and she is as tough as nails,” Mrs Kelly said.
Earlier this month, the proud mum got to see her daughter march out after the completion of her initial training.
"It was very emotional for both of us and it was wonderful to see it. It didn't really hit me until I gave her a hug,” she said.
"I think it was great for her to see her hard work and dedication had paid off and she was able to achieve something she set her mind to.”
Mrs Kelly said Claire signed up for the two-year program after attending a careers night and worked tirelessly on her fitness to prepare.
The former Warwick High student would ride to school from her Tannymorel home, before hitting the gym.
While some parents may be taken aback by their child's desire to enter the military, Mrs Kelly said all she wanted to do was support her daughter.
"I think it is great for them to be able to broaden their horizons and work on their self-motivation,” she said.
"You just want to be able to support them.”
Mrs Kelly said it was wonderful to see her daughter succeed at something she set her mind to.
She said Claire's father, Peter, passed away two years ago but she knew he would have loved to watch her successes unfold. "Her father would be very proud of her. He used to tell the kids, 'don't be the carriage, always be the engine,” Mrs Kelly said.
During her initiation to the Australian Army, Miss Kelly turned 18.
While other teens mark the occasion with a legal alcoholic beverage or two, Miss Kelly celebrated with the single Tim Tam she was allowed, while her colleagues were gifted just half a biscuit in the birthday spirit.
Warwick Vietnam veteran Johnno Felton said he spotted Claire's big heart while she took part in the Battle of Baghdad obstacle course, and he was proud to see her kicking goals.
He hoped other young women would do the same and keep the Anzac spirit burning throughout the community.
"There are some top soldiers coming out of Warwick and here we have a young girl who is off to drive the new armoured vehicles and see the world,” he said.
"I know these millennium soldiers will carry the Anzac tradition on.”
Mr Felton said it was admirable to see ambitious teenagers fighting to get ahead in life. "There is none of this sitting around trying to find a job in Warwick and asking the council to make fun for them,” he said.