Mil­i­tary dis­ci­pline im­parts the right pro­fes­sional ex­per­tise

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Primespace - Chris Herde Pro­files

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

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