Pat Cooper

When Pat Cooper applied to join the Air Force after high school, he didn’t get in. But he ended up having a stellar military career, culminating in his appointment to commanding 44 Wing, and has just transitioned into a top civilian role.

31 July 2020

A middle-aged man named Pat Cooper, with his arms around a woman. They are standing in front of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

“I was manifestly unprepared for the initial training, let alone a career in Defence!” said Pat.

“I completed TAFE courses at the local aero club and did a lot of work experience at the Townsville Air Traffic Control tower before I successfully reapplied when I was 19.”

Pat’s career included many postings and a deployment to the Middle East, but he says the highlight was commanding the School of Air Traffic Control in Sale, where he helped to generate the Air Traffic Controller workforce of today.

“My life has turned out great, which I attribute to my wonderful wife Jodi and our life together,” said Pat.

Over the last five years, Pat said Defence supported his training and education, largely funding his tertiary education through the Defence Assisted Study Scheme.

“I completed a Masters in Strategy and Management, which was great for providing a formal qualification to match the leadership and management experience I got in Defence.

A middle-aged man named Pat Cooper, standing and smiling. He is wearing prescription glasses and dressed in a suit and tie.

“I had a wonderful career in Defence, but at the mid-point of what turned out to be my final posting, we decided to look for a life beyond Defence.”

Pat and Jodi attended an ADF Member and Family Transition Seminar together and made the most of the training offered during his transition.

“I particularly valued the resume preparation and the interview-technique training.

“It helped organise my thoughts from almost 30 years of military service into answers that would have meaning to civilian employers.”

Pat is now the CEO of the Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator, which synchronises the flow of coal from local mines to power stations and to vessels for transport to Asia.

“I understand that it’s not the popular narrative, but I’ve learned that coal remains essential for keeping the lights on across Australia.

“I’ve also learned that the skills and experiences we accumulate in Defence, particularly leadership and resilience, are highly transferable to civilian workplaces.”