Military discipline imparts the right professional expertise
CONTINUAL training across a range of areas remains a feature of the Australian Defence Force. And that training has also become a valued commodity in civilian life, especially in the property sector.
From the grunts to the top brass, ADF personnel learn a range of skills, ranging from those dealing with the sharp end of conflict, to trades and technical know- how, and extensive training in management and leadership.
Bill Humble credits the management skills gained over a 22- year career as an officer in the Royal Australian Engineers for his long career in the property industry.
I believe that no one teaches management at the level that the army teaches it because you’re dealing with massive logistical and planning exercise that you spend our life being trained to do that,’’ says Humble, who attained the rank of lieutenant- colonel.
So it would be little wonder in my view that you find yourself able to move into a management job with a very disciplined mind, very disciplined system of decision- making, a need to make decisions and stick with them and then follow them through with a ruthless determination provided you remain convinced they are right.’’
Humble, who joined up in 1949 and studied civil engineering at RMIT, was attached to British army intelligence fighting in Borneo and Malaya in the 1950s and left the military in 1970 to become University of Queensland’s director of buildings and grounds. But he believes ADF now is a vastly different organisation from his service days.
During my time we all had a pretty clear perception of what we were about: God, King and country and that may sound a bit oldfashioned now but in those days it was the belief system which held this country together,’’ says Humble, a past president of the Queensland Property Council and who at the age of 77 continues to do consulting work.
It seems very different these days, we now live in an employee’s world. I lived in employer world back then where, by and large, things were run according to the wishes of the employer rather than the employee. The pendulum has swung the other way.’’ God or the royal family and the gaining of pure military virtues no longer figure in ADF recruitment drives. Instead, to address a chronic shortage of personnel, the ADF concentrates on promoting the skills it has to offer recruits to arm them with career options in civilian life. That has meant recruits generally look at shorter military careers.
Paul Cronan left the RAAF last year with the rank of air commodore after a 22- year legal career in the armed services to become chief operations officer of the Brisbane property management company Cromwell Group. The last stint for Cronan, who has since left Cromwell and returned to Canberra, was in Baghdad’s Green Zone, as the Chief of International Law with Headquarters Multinational Force. He says training, retraining and learning new skills are a constant in the ADF and relevant to civilian life.
In many cases defence force personnel, I think, often undersell themselves in terms of what they can do outside. They are welltrained, well- educated and have great experience and are very marketable,’’ he says.
I’ve seen many people go off into private industry and do quite well and when I was thinking of leaving, it stood me in good stead in the sense that I thought I had a lot to offer in experience and background.’’
The leap from the military to civilian life nowadays is also not so great. Much of what was the rigid male- based military culture has changed dramatically over the past 20 years, to reflect the changing social values.
Sunshine Coast property developer Don Moffatt, who served in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot with the 161 Independent Reconnaissance Flight, says a person leaving the military today would have different skills from his day.
The military has changed dramatically since my time with all these new laws in Australia which have carried through to the military,’’ says Moffatt, who heads up the Moffatt Property Development Group, based in Buderim.
It seems almost unionised now and I’d imagine that requires more man- management skills than what it did back in our day. All it required back in our day is say do it and it had to be done. If that’s man- management, then I’m a bloody flagpole.’’
Regardless, civilian life means the end of the constant upheaval of life in the military.
After 11 years with the Special Boat Service, the naval equivalent of Britain’s SAS, and then with a private security firm in Baghdad’s Red Zone until last year, Matt Ollerton decided he had seen enough and settled in Brisbane.
The 37- year- old, now happily working at Place Estate Agents in suburban Bulimba, says he encountered some of the most extreme circumstances’’ in Baghdad.
Baghdad was about finding solutions and making it work and there was a great sense of achievement. There are challenges also in real estate, going that extra mile for your clients and being rewarded,’’ he says.
I am absolutely loving it here. It’s the first time since I was 18 that I’ve actually been in one place for more than four months. I just actually love the stability of having a normal life and routine.
My special forces training is considered the most arduous in the world and the course takes roughly a year to compete. From 240 applicants I was one of only seven that completed the course. You have to be determined and focused, and have very strong depth of belief in yourself. If I can pass UK special forces training I can do anything.’’
In step: Former army officer and now property consultant Bill Humble