Barry served in the Army for 21 years and discharged in 2012. Here is his story...
21 Years RAEME Vehicle Mechanic serving from 1991 to 2012
Barry grew up in a small farming community in SA; from a teenager he was keen to join the Australian Army and to also get a trade. In 1991 Barry was enlisted as a 16 year old Army Apprentice to train as a Vehicle Mechanic.
What was going to be a short job ended up being a 21 year career with postings to field workshops, Trade Promotion Instructor and maintenance management positions in Adelaide, Townsville, Bonegilla and Canberra.
The highlight of his career was in 1999 when he was able to deploy to East Timor with 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment as part of INTERFET. As a Lance Corporal this allowed Barry to put his years of leadership and trade training into practice while helping a country recover and rebuild from conflict.
In 2010/11 Barry was posted to the Royal Military College (RMC) as the Technical Regulatory Framework Warrant Officer. This position was where he started working towards his successful transition to civilian life.
Barry: From the 15 year mark I knew that I was committed to completing 21 years service. I was committed to this due to a couple of reasons the main ones being the MSBS retention benefit and my willingness to change my career path before I turned 40.
When I was posted to RMC at the start of my 20th year I knew that this would be the last unit I was to serve. My area of employment comprised of a small work force of which over half the staff were civilians. I believe that this workforce composition allowed me to better transition to the civilian workforce than if I had been in a traditional high tempo Army unit. The position also allowed me to develop my Quality Auditing skills and gain a formal qualification at Diploma level in this field.
When I started looking for civilian work in Canberra I decided to draw on my current roles and responsibilities to find work that would closely align to that. I also decided to find “A Job” but not to leave that job until I found “The Job”.
Within a few weeks I had a job back on the tools maintaining equipment for a construction company. A few months later and I had found “The Job”; it was closely aligned to my RMC role, had ties to Defence and was in the building across the road from my last job.
I became the Compliance Manager for the ACT/SNSW Garrison Support Services contract. The job turned out to be a perfect match, I was able to use my Defence background to understand the contract documents, policy documents and lingo to make the best of my day to day compliance and auditing work.
I also drew on my work place trainer qualifications to develop 50 staff through the recruitment process into permanent positions and I was able to better document our successes and challenges.
All was going to plan and looking great, I had my DVA stuff claimed, I was living the dream job, I had my DHOAS set up, I had aligned myself for my new career path, and my wife and daughter were tolerating the cold Canberra winters.
Unfortunately not everything goes to plan…
Within two years all the planning, DVA Claims, DHOAS loan, Transition Training and family base would be shot to pieces. Three months after discharge I sustained a major injury during a fun run, this was not covered by DVA; but the run was still fun! Shortly afterwards we found out that my Father-In-Law and fellow veteran had developed his second bout of cancer (this turned out to be a fight he would not win). With this in mind we made the decision to move back to Townsville and support him and the family through what lay ahead in the short term and ongoing.
We had arrived back in the Garrison town where I had spent half of my Military life during a time of industry downturn and rising unemployment. On the plus side though the company I was working for granted me a transfer to Townsville into the Asset Management space, unfortunately they only had 10 months of contract left.
At the end of the contract I was initially unsuccessful in gaining any ongoing employment with the new contractor; that was until I had a chance meeting with one of the Supervisors who was an ex RAAF Mechanic of all things. When I told him my background he instantly recognised my potential and was amazed that I had been overlooked. On day one of the contract I was back in “A Job” as a tradesman swinging spanners as a Maintenance Fitter; within two months I was recognised for my skills and back to “The Job” as a Facility Maintenance Supervisor.
Now; two years later; I have progressed away from my Defence contract job back to the Vehicle Maintenance roles that I knew so well and into yet another “The Job” as a Vehicle Fleet Manager for the local University. This is another fantastic job, with a great group of people in a supportive organisation. Again I had applied for the position to replace a fellow ex-Army Mechanic. Again I had some help through mutual contacts, and again I am in a job well matched to my military experience, skills and qualifications.
I have read many profiles where veterans say that you need to plan and follow set steps for a successful transition. While I fully support this and agree, even the best plans are based on assumptions. Although my initial transition went to plan I soon found my transition into a suitable career path was going to take more than a single isolated step. What helped me through the challenges I have had since my transition commenced was the basic personal traits of any military member; this and the large ex Defence network that exists in the community around us.
One of my managers once said to me he would rather a single responsible employee that turns up to work who is fit and ready and could be trained the job skills required than employ five employees who had the skills but were reluctant to work. Through Defence we have a lot of these personal qualities drummed in to us that they often become second nature and overlooked. While the skills and qualifications will often get someone a job, a good employer will recognise passion and your personal qualities and will be willing to assist you to develop into what you want to be.
There is nothing wrong with starting small. Never undersell the small stuff, it what makes you – you; it’s what makes us stand out from the crowd.