Graduating from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, England in 1985, Mark served in the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Sardinia, United States (US) and Iraq over the following 20 years. Training as an Ammunition Technical Officer, Mark commanded one of the UK’s regional Bomb Disposal Teams, he also attended the Joint Service Advanced Command and Staff College before being seconded to the US Technical Intelligence Services.
In this time Mark continued his life-long learning, studying a Bachelor of Science in Applied Science, a Master of Science in Explosive Engineering and a Master of Science in Technology and Management. His last posting in the UK was as a Squadron Commander in the Iraq war, a highlight of his military career.
“Being a Squadron Commander in Basra during the Iraq War, was one of the hardest but most professionally rewarding times of my whole life,” explains Mark. “I was proud to be a part of a great team.”
In 2005, Mark joined the Australian Army, transitioning through the ADF’s lateral recruitment program. Working in Bandiana, Canberra and Melbourne, he served in the inaugural Counter IED Task Force, deployed to Afghanistan as part of OP SLIPPER, became the Commanding Officer of the Army School of Ordnance and served as the Logistics Lead Staff Officer in the headquarters of Land Systems Division.
Having served around the world and undertaken a variety of roles, is it the diversity of experience, which Mark believes sets the military apart from any other career.
“It’s not one job, it’s many jobs, in many different settings around the world where you get exposed to many different challenges, opportunities and cultures. The friendships and loyalty of the people you work with along the way is very unique and special. I feel lucky and thankful.”
Transitioning from the ADF
In 2015, after a three decades in the military, Mark decided to transition to civilian life.
“30 years is a long time and I left the Army for all the right reasons,” says Mark. “I had an opportunity to move closer to my family and work in a new sector that changes lives through education and training.”
Swapping his uniform for a suit, Mark became the CEO of Wodonga TAFE in regional Victoria, a job requiring him to be adaptive, agile and ethical, all skills he had harnessed through his career in the Defence Force.
“I think Defence personnel lead by example and we understand the importance of active listening, and making everyone in the organisation feel valued and a part of the team,” explains Mark. “These are somewhat old-fashioned principles but still critically important in every business. We need to demonstrate humility and moral courage and most veterans have learnt these attributes.”
After a four-year stint at the helm of Wodonga TAFE, in which time the organisation won the 2018 Australian Large Training Provider of the Year, Mark decided it was time for a new challenge, taking on the role of CEO at Wodonga City Council in 2019.
“In many ways council and local government are similar to Defence,” says Mark. “We are a community service organisation that seeks to enhance the liveability of our city, strengthen our communities and drive transformational economic growth to the region.”
Advice for veterans
While transitioning from the Defence Force can be a time of immense change, Mark says ADF members are better prepared than they think.
“Our service career has required us and our families to move every two-to-three years and this builds inherent agility, resilience and adaptability, which are the key skills needed to transition successfully out of the Defence Force.”
Having settled in regional Victoria, Mark has built a strong support network, something he believes is pivotal in finding happiness post-service.
“I have fond memories of my Army days and great mateship but I have found many rewarding friendships in my new workplace and my community,” explains Mark. “I now do a lot of road cycling and this has been really good for my friendships, my physical health and most importantly my mental wellbeing, so my advice is to find a group sport you can commit to as it will help with your transition and happiness.”
When it comes to finding a job, Mark knows how important having a mentor is, and his advice to job-seeking veterans is to speak to those who have gone before them.
“We are all keen to help veterans and often it’s those connections that can help you get your CV right for a particular role or get you over the first hurdle of being interviewed. Practice interviews are also important; we often haven’t had to sell ourselves and can even under-sell ourselves through a lack of commercial awareness.”
While transitioning Defence personnel may be apprehensive about what lays ahead, Mark encourages all veterans to have the self-belief and self-confidence to back themselves.
“It is very easy to find a job after your Defence career that you love just as much as your Defence service to your country. Find a job you love doing and you will do it well, the job is more important than the salary package.”