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A gradual transition to life after service

Jun 26 2018

Not everyone leaving the Defence Force makes a drastic change to a new path in life. For some, the transition to civilian life is less challenging than the journey they've been able to take since.


When he left the Air Force, Bradley Stanford was already working as a Project Engineer in Canberra. On paper, it should have been a seamless transition.

Bradley continued to serve in a similar role as a Reservist for the Airborne Self Protection System Program Office (ASPSPO), before taking up a civilian position to fill a short-term gap.

At the time, his director was establishing a new engineering position at RAAF Base Edinburgh in Adelaide and it was looking likely that his wife would be posted there.

“It was a fantastic opportunity for me because it significantly broadened my Defence experience in an area that I would be unlikely to have gained had I stayed in the Air Force.”

“It was going to be a nice, neat transition opportunity for both ASPSPO and for me,” said Bradley.

“However, the Services being the Services, they then decided that my wife was required in Canungra in the Gold Coast Hinterland, so we packed our things and moved to sunny Queensland instead.”

After several months of searching for local private sector work, Bradley looked at what Defence civilian work was available in Brisbane. He successfully applied for an Army Aviation role, working with Flying Management Systems and Operator policy.

“It was a fantastic opportunity for me because it significantly broadened my Defence experience in an area that I would be unlikely to have gained had I stayed in the Air Force.”

Since then, Bradley accompanied his wife to RAAF Edinburgh where he worked part-time for Army and part-time for the Defence Science and Technology Organisation.

He has now come full circle and is back in Canberra, where he's currently Acting Chief Engineer, in the organisation that was formerly ASPSPO.

But Bradley says he's learned a few things along the way, including gaining an appreciation for the challenges military partners face each time they move to a new posting.

“Being the husband of a serving member, all the moves can be difficult. I've been lucky in that my skills are generally portable to a fairly wide range of applications, but moving can impact on employment significantly,” said Bradley.

“It is also challenging to hear people speak disparagingly about the Australian Public Service, when we are the same people, working towards the same mission.”

Bradley has found that former members have a lot of highly valued skills and experience they bring with them, and there are a number of other things you learn in the ADF without even knowing you've learned it.

“Interestingly, it wasn't until I was a public servant that I was able to really hone my communication skills in a staff officer role working for Army,” he said.

“But understanding the culture, the organisational structure, and knowing my way around some of the many acronyms and jargon has proven to be very helpful.

“Possibly most valuable, however, is the continued network of contacts that you build over years of service.”

This article was published in the 2018 Autumn/Winter Defence Family Matters

When he left the Air Force, Bradley Stanford was already working as a Project Engineer in Canberra. On paper, it should have been a seamless transition.
Bradley Stanford