Ben’s experience joining the Australian Defence Force
How did you know you wanted to join the Defence Force?
I didn’t know! My mum kept pestering me about going to university. I have never wanted to go to uni. She asked me if I had thought about doing a gap year with the army, so I did some more research. I thought it sounded like a great experience, so I applied that night.
What does an average day look like in the army?
Most days include rehearsals, supporting tasks and convoy drives. The more exciting days are when we conduct training exercises simulating a tactical environment. We use real weapons but with blank rounds instead of bullets – they make a loud noise but don’t fire anything. In today’s exercise, I will be the enemy party, where I will sneak up on my soldiers and disrupt their operations and defensive positions by attacking them. They will work together using their training to defend themselves and eventually neutralise me. It can be confronting and quite serious but it is fun.
The gap year program:
The gap year program is available to anyone aged 18-24. It is a one-year contract. You do a reservist course for six months, and after that you work as a full-time military person in the second half of the year. In this role, you are using everything you’ve learnt in the previous six months in tactical environments.
What is the training like as an Army Officer?
I am in the logistics corps, so the roles are different depending on what corp you choose. There are five training blocks to complete over five months. For each block, there is a theory phase and a field phase. For example, the first training block is learning the basics of being a soldier. This includes basic drills, marching, first aid for military-specific incidents, saluting and weapon handling. The other training blocks are about putting everything you have learnt into practice.
Essentially, you learn how to be a soldier first. They teach you how to use a weapon and fight. Then you can go into more trade-specific training like tank operations, mechanical engineering, truck driving – there are a lot of different options to choose from.
What have you gotten out of being an Army Officer?
So much that it’s hard to put into words. Being in the army definitely teaches you great discipline and what hard work is. It is a challenge; both physically and mentally. It will be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, but overall so rewarding and a terrific experience.
I have had so much personal growth, I have never felt stronger. I have found direction with what I want to do in my life. The army supports you well financially, so next year I am able to do a lot of travel. I would love to go to New Zealand and work there, possibly as a travel guide or scuba diver instructor!
What job are you doing at the moment?
This is the first role I’ve had as Alpha Troop commander. We are transporting 8 trucks from the Northern Territory to South Australia. It’s been amazing to travel Australia like this for work!
My advice to young people
I would definitely recommend becoming an army officer to anyone. However, there is always the navy and air force if you are looking for a less strenuous challenge. I hear they live much more luxuriously than us too!