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Terry - Setting the Wheels in Motion

Terry Thompson wearing a hard hat and an orange safety vestSetting the Wheels in Motion

Starting Out in the Army

I grew up around army bases and this influenced me to join, however my father always said to make sure I got a trade as it would help me with a career after I discharged, like all dads he was right.

I worked as a heavy diesel mechanic at The 7th Combat Service Support Battalion at Enoggera, repairing, modifying & inspecting army equipment ranging from Landrover’s, Macks to M113a1 armoured personnel carriers.

After a few years I started experiencing difficulties with my knees due to the cumulative effect of the physical demands of the job and underwent surgery in 2000.

When my injuries continued, I was medically downgraded but continued to make a valuable contribution to the ADF as a specialist vehicle mechanic. I was medically discharged in 2012 with a rank of Craftsman Mechanic.

Facing new challenges

Although my injuries prevented me from working directly as a mechanic, I was still able to work productively in a supervisory role.

I had a few interests but didn’t know if I would get the same job satisfaction as I did from my previous roles. I knew I could go out and have a go at whatever came along but longevity in the new career was very important to me; I wanted something that I enjoyed and had a bit of variety in the role. I also felt like I had failed one of my life goals which was to serve overseas.

Following my discharge, I worked with a DVA rehabilitation provider who recommended that I undergo additional training so I could pursue a career in Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S). I was very interested in OH&S as a career path but was finding it difficult to move into and had some concerns about the future.

I thought qualifications in the OH&S field would help me expand my options, I had worked in the area while I was in the ADF but I still wasn’t 100% sure that in the outside world it would be for me. I never wanted a job that was behind a computer desk, this was one of my greatest fears.

Work trial

Following my OH&S training, DVA assisted me into a work trial with Downer EDI Works, a unit of Downer Group, a leading provider of engineering and infrastructure management services.

My work trial went extremely well, I was warmly welcomed into the maintenance team of Downer EDI Works and was immediately put to work carrying out various aspects of planning maintenance on our fleet of road surfacing plant equipment.

I found that I wasn’t treated any differently to any other member of the team. The first couple of weeks were a little overwhelming with the different types of plant equipment that Downer works with but I found my background prepared me well.

On the work trial I gained an invaluable amount of experience that I feel I could have taken away with me if needed.

Kicking new life goals

My new workplace is unlike any of my defence workplaces, every day new challenges arise that have to be met in a very timely manner, you have to be a lot more efficient here, there is more demand on all members of the team to work harder and smarter.

I use my skills from the ADF every day, from ordering parts, taking mechanical related phone calls to organising sub-contractors, without my mechanical background I would be lost.

I would still like to get more involved in OH&S, at the moment I find I am already busy enough, in the future I would like to get the chance to move further into this field.

New challenges, new friends and new rewards

My advice to other members who have been medically discharged is to try and get yourself involved with outside organisations so that you can meet people with similar interests as your army mates will soon move on with posting cycles.

I also found job interviews difficult as I had no real experience with them. I found the more interviews I attended the more confident and prepared I felt. I even had a couple of phone interviews early on just to gain experience and to try to settle my nerves, practice makes perfect so go out and apply for as many jobs as you can so you are prepared for the job interview you want.

In summing up, try to use your medical discharge as the beginning of a new chapter in your life which will bring new challenges, new friends and new rewards.

Update: Since sharing his story, Terry has been promoted to SEQ workshop supervisor - congratulations Terry!

If you have a successful rehabilitation outcome and you wish to share your story, please contact us.

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