Shannon: Since I was 5 years old all I wanted to do was be a military pilot – I was lucky enough at this age to ride on a family-day joy flight in a Caribou at my Dad’s RAAF reserve Squadron and I was hooked!
I focused every schooling effort and extra-curricular activity when I was growing up towards achieving this goal and I succeeded! I graduated ADFA, RAAF pilots’ course, Navy rotary conversion and was living the dream, line-driving as Squirrel pilot when it all came undone…
I acquired a traumatic brain injury, and despite retaining my previous functionality, I was never going to achieve fit-to-fly again. I began the tedious 12-month process of being discharged on medical grounds.
Unfortunately the vast majority of my qualifications earnt in the Defence Force were no longer useful in the civilian world, as I was also unfit to fly as a commercial pilot. I had to make an alternative plan.
I had always also been interested in career in medicine, so I decided to make this my new goal. It takes about 12 months of testing to get into medicine, and I had none of the pre-requisite knowledge required for the entrance test.
I used my final 12 months in the Defence Force, during my “ground jobs” to study and gain entry into a graduate medical program. It was tough, but I managed to secure a spot at Deakin medical school.
I left the Defence Force, with only my savings and some pretty amazing life-experience and began my medical journey. It’s now 5 years later and I have been working as a qualified Doctor for a year, and I love it!
My tips for exiting the Defence Force include:
1. Have a goal and plan. If you know that you are leaving the Defence Force, voluntarily or not, you need to spend as much time as you can planning what you want to do on “the outside”. Research what you need to do in order to achieve your new goal. What study do you need to do, what qualifications and what location? etc. Let the Defence force move you to your new location when you discharge.
2. Work out your finances and plan for discharge accordingly. You might not have a job for a while, or you might need to retrain. You will need funds to cover you during any down-time, and you might need to down step the lifestyle that you may be used to in the defence force > you can move into a cheaper rental (RA is pretty hard to get in the civilian world), you can cancel that Foxtel subscription or you can consolidate your debt. Start this process as long as you can before you leave, saving your pennies before you leave will make the transition easier.
3. Coordinate your plan with you partner. Your partner’s goals, aspirations and livelihood are just as important as yours. No use moving to the country to start a dairy farm if you partner needs a capital city for their employment. Like everything, it’s about compromise – your partner could well be supporting you for some time after you leave – you need to make sure the grand plan suits them too. Have a short, medium and long term plan of where you want to end up together. Some compromises from either party in the short term can often pay off big-time in the long term, just make sure you’re both on the same page.
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