David Rye

When David Rye left the Australian Army after 33 years he didn’t envision starting a second career, however today, he has the ‘best of both worlds’, working part-time as a project manager and volunteering as a compensation advocate.

19 June 2020

David Rye, standing at a lectern in Australian Army uniform, speaking at an Anzac Day commemorative service in 2014.

David joined the Australian Army at 16, and spent the majority of his career as a Combat Engineer in the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence (CBRN) fields. Reaching the rank of Colonel, David transitioned out of service in 2015.

“I had no particular reason to leave the Army other than I had reached my natural progression and felt it was time to go rather than stick around for the sake of things,” explains David. “I thoroughly enjoyed my career in the Army and if I had the chance to do it all over again I would without hesitation, without changing anything.”

A smiling, young man in Australian Army uniform. There is an old white car in the background.

With plans to retire post-service, David was keen to volunteer and was recommended Hume Veterans Information Centre in Wodonga, a not-for-profit organisation providing advocacy services for the veteran community.

“I swapped my passion for the Army for my volunteer work,” says David. “I am now a level three compensation advocate which I do a couple days a week. I find it very rewarding and a source of strength and encouragement when I can see the direct benefit from helping another veteran.”

Content in retirement it was a call from a former colleague that saw David enter the civilian workforce; taking up the position of project manager at EPE, a finalist in the 2020 Prime Minister's Veterans’ Employment Awards.

“I received a call from Warwick Penrose (EPE’s managing director) needing some urgent assistance to help him get a big Defence tender response completed. I flew up to Brisbane the next day and started an eight week contract. At the completion he asked me to move to Brisbane and work full-time for the company, we compromised and I now work two days a week from home.”

Specialising in the protection of military personnel and first responders, David sees EPE as a great way to stay connected to Defence. He’s also been able to use many of the skills fostered during his time in the ADF, such as leadership, management and engineering expertise.

Five years on and David is very happy with his life post-service, attributing the support of his family and friends for making the transition so smooth. He also found the support from the ADF extremely helpful and recommends all transitioning personnel take up the offer from Defence to have their CV prepared professionally.

“Regardless of what you have done in the military you will have a great set of skills that are readily transferable into the corporate sector,” explains David. “The trick is defining those skills in a way that the corporate sector can recognise.”

A smiling, middle-aged man. He is wearing a blue business shirt. The background is grey behind him.

When it comes to advice for those who have already transitioned and are struggling, David says you just have to put your hand up.

“There are a huge range of options and organisations that are tailored specifically to support veterans, but in most cases it takes the veteran to make the first contact. I would encourage any veteran who is struggling in any capacity to reach out for assistance.”

If this story has raised any issues for you, please contact Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, which provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone: 1800 011 046 (International: +61 8 8241 4546) or visit OpenArms.gov.au.