Axons Unleashed E20: Robbie's Kapooka Experience As A 17 Year Old

We’re back with an all new season of Axons Unleashed

Join us to kick things off with a three-part story spanning Robbie, Dan & Dane’s careers joining the Australian Defence Force and surviving basic training. 

Find out what type of young man Robbie was before joining the military, as well as how Dan got his lucky break in, then tottered off to RMC & met Mr. Turner himself! 

Join the team as they recount some epic stories of mateship, tears, inspiration and damn hard work here on Axons Unleashed.  

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Episode Transcription:

Speaker 1:
Axons Unleashed.

Robbie:
Alrighty. After a couple of weeks break, welcome back to Axons Unleashed. My name is Robbie. I’m joined by Tamara, Dan and Dane. And we’re going to talk about all things ADF. ADF retirement, ADF transition, ADF entrepreneurship.

Robbie:
I guess I’m really excited, though. I want to start off this new season of the podcast talking about what my first few years were like in the military. I let some feedback or like I loved hearing the backstory and all of the this and this and this. So, Tammy, I know you’ve got some stories to tell. Dane, I caught up with you on the weekend. You were telling me some funny shit. I’m like, “We’re going to put that in the podcast.”

Tamara:
Yeah.

Robbie:
Dan’s now hearing this for the first time. So. there’s a little bit of background, ladies and gents. These guys don’t know what the run sheet is for today. They do now because we’re going to talk about my first five or six years in the military, but I guess I want all of you to reflect upon your basic training. What it was like, what are your first impressions? Did you have to make that phone call back to your parents, fucking crying like I did going, “Why have I done this?” So I can’t wait to share that with you. Morning everyone. How are you?

Tamara:
Good morning.

Dane:
Morning. Morning.

Dan:
Good day. Hey, it will be an interesting procession because as I walked in the room here, I noticed that no one else has any notes ready to go for today. But, Robbie’s got his laptop hidden like pressed right up against his chest, so no one can look over his shoulder and read the notes [inaudible 00:01:25]. It’ll be interesting, mate. As to see where we’re, basically, going to go with this and where the conversation takes us.

Robbie:
Yeah, I love it. This is all about just us, us being even more vulnerable when us disclosing and like unleashing ourselves to you guys, the listeners and the audience even more, so …

Tamara:
I’m surprised you didn’t use an analogy there like, “Without warning,” or “No cuff too tough”, or …

Robbie:
They’re all coming.

Dane:
I thought it was going to be something different, that last one.

Robbie:
Yeah.

Tamara:
Oh.

Dan:
Don’t need to. I’ve done them all ever [crosstalk 00:01:53].

Robbie:
Remember, Dane, the only bloody catchphrase that matter to you, mate, in the Air Force is, “Room Service”.

Dane:
Yes. Absolutely.

Robbie:
We’ve gone through that last time. So, Season Three’s like we’re not going to … There’s no cap as far as how many episodes is going to go. Now, we’re just going to go forever. Not going to say there’s going to be fucking 5000 episodes like what Joe Rogan’s got, or maybe there will be. Who knows? But, certainly we’re going to go. We’re going to go long and fast. We’ve got heaps of awesome guests coming …

Tamara:
It depends if people … It depends if people want to listen to you that long, then.

Robbie:
True. True, true, true, true.

Tamara:
They might be like, “Oh, god. Robbie Turner again.”

Robbie:
All right. Why I joined the ADF, basically, mum was the manager of Kmart after 30 years, Dad got his own trucking and earth moving business, so grew up in a small country town called Port Pirie. Finished Year 12 in 1989. And then …

Dan:
What type of a young man was Robbie Turner before he joined the military? You just gave us what mum and dad were and you grew up in Port Pirie. Were you as energized and as deliberate in all your approaches? [crosstalk 00:02:56]

Robbie:
Yeah. Looking like a scallywag.

Dane:
Is that what it’s called?

Robbie:
I think so. I didn’t have a girlfriend at high school. Chicks didn’t want to have a bar of me. Not that that’s really changed too much over the years. I’ve found the one now, haven’t I? Thank you. I wasn’t that guy, but certainly had … I had quite good sporting prowess. I was … the 100 meter champion. I was playing A grade footie at 15 years old, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So …

Dan:
In Port Pirie, though?

Robbie:
In Port Pirie, right. But, country sport is fucking massive as anyone would realize. There’s a lot, a lot of great footballers and sporting people who have come from the country.

Tamara:
And, a little redhead Dennis the Menace [crosstalk 00:03:34].

Robbie:
I was a little redhead Dennis the Menace. Sometimes, when I see Amy’s son here, I’m like, “Yeah. It’s a bit of a look in the bloody mirror from 20 … fuck, 40 odd years ago,” whatever it is.

Dan:
20 years ago?

Dane:
He’s 28.

Tamara:
He wishes.

Dan:
So, everyone who knows you now, know that you have a large amount of energy about you, I suppose. And that’s always been the case since I’ve known you. Lots of people remark about, “Oh, Robbie Turner. That’s the guy that was just fully intense and really into everything that he got into.” Were you as channeled with that energy when you were a young fellow? Or, was it spraying everywhere effectively?

Robbie:
I don’t know is the answer. I can only assume, yes. I’ve always been an optimistic and happy and pretty pretty … I was going to say normal person then, but what you just described is not normal. I don’t know, man. I just fucking … We are who we are.

Robbie:
But, I guess I had no intentions of joining the military. Both my grandfathers served in World War II. None of them spoke a word about being in the military. I didn’t even know they’re in the military until after I joined and had an interest in it, of course. I just knew that I didn’t … I just knew I didn’t want to stay in that small country town. I loved growing up there, close knit community. I see even now on Facebook, kids that I went to school with, ended up marrying each other and they’ve now got kids and those that got kids [inaudible 00:04:53]. So, that’s that intergenerational just … sprawl of people that just continue to live in those certain areas.

Robbie:
That’s interesting to see because I left at 17. And then, went and joined the army and you know, basically landed myself in, in bloody Wagga Wagga, Kapooka there. And, just like off Full Metal Jacket, sitting in a chair, getting my head shaved at 17 years old. And I had no idea. I had no interest in the military whatsoever. Never used to play Cowboys and Indians, never used to play hide and seek, of course, kids chase you, all that sort of stuff at school when you’re like six. But, I had no military flavor about me. I didn’t know anything. Zero. I was a real cold start when it got to the military. What about you, mate? Let’s just switch across to you. Why did you join the military, Dan?

Dan:
My grandad, also … He was over in New Guinea or in the Pacific, I suppose. He only got over there for … as I later found out, he was probably only over there for about a month before he got collected by some shrapnel, sent back to Australia, everything like that. They’re very much the same. Never spoke about it, right? Which I think is almost like one of those testaments of … you know that they’ve done it if they never spoke about it again.

Dan:
My Nan’s brother, he was actually Delta Company 6 RAR, over in Vietnam as well.

Robbie:
Yeah. Very famous unit.

Dan:
During [long 10 00:06:11] there, so he was with the platoon headquarters. There was a little bit of background going on, but yeah. Never really spoken about … never really showed too much of an interest either, to be honest. And then, I was at uni at the time and I think it was about two years through my engineering degree and I was like, “Oh, what am I going to do after this?”

Dan:
A lot of my mates were streaming down the mining sector, the air conditioning sector, like a lot of those ventilation systems you do need in the mornings. And I was like, “Do I really want to go and work in a mine for the rest of my life?” So, I had a bit of a realization there. And, would have been an O week at uni when those careers expo was going on and Defence Force had their little banner there and I’m like, “Oh yeah. That seems okay.” I just put my name down and I actually didn’t even tell my parents about it until I’d gone on for two or three sessions over there. I’d pretty much been picked up and tick the box and they go, “Yep. Absolutely. You’re in. You can come in and sneak in through this back door as an engineer,” and, hopefully, never ever have to do real engineering when I was in the military, which was helpful.

Tamara:
What did your parents say when they found out?

Dan:
I don’t even remember. It was like, “Ah …”

Tamara:
Were they happy?

Dan:
Yeah. I think they were happy. I think … I don’t think they were surprised, per se. I think they were just like, “Oh yeah, that sounds like a good little career.”

Dan:
At the time, one of my cousins was actually married to another bloke who was a soldier as well, so I spent a little bit of time speaking to Gav about all that sort of stuff. I probably spoke to him more in the lead up to that than I did to my own parents because he’d been bouncing in and out of Afghanistan at that period of time as well, had been in a couple of IED incidents while he was over there as a Bushmaster driver and stuff like that.

Dan:
So, later towards when I actually enlisted, at that point in time, I was probably learning a little bit more, but from people who were actually doing it, rather than going back to my mum and dad for their feedback or advice or anything like that. [inaudible 00:08:12]. I was always THE child. So there’s three of us. I’ve got an older sister and younger sister.

Robbie:
Same here.

Dan:
And I was pretty much the child that always just kind of did what I wanted to do.

Robbie:
Same here.

Dan:
I never really went to mum and dad for permission or to seek forgiveness later. I was just like, I’ll make my decision and I’ll live with it. I’ll lie in my own bed and go do that. So, yeah. That was me. A couple of years in a uni, picked up a cheeky little scholarship there and finished off the rest of my uni degree and then, tottered off all on to RMC, where I’ve fortunately or unfortunately, depending on who you speak to, met Mr. Robbie Turner, the one and only.

Robbie:
We will go through that in a second. So, it’s interesting. You joined the military without telling your family. My family had it in their mind that I would join the military without telling me because we just hopped in a car and drove.

Tamara:
Or put you on the bus.

Robbie:
Well, yeah. We hopped in a car, drove down to Adelaide and were like, “Come on, Robbie. We’re going to go and find you a job.” I’d just finished doing Year 12. I was still only 16 years old because my birthday’s not until the end of November. So, I was the youngest kid in my class with the … that year of birth sort of happening after everyone else’s or my birthday come around anyway.

Robbie:
So, we’re in the car and we’re going down, it’s like, “What are we going to do? Where are we going?” Like, “Oh, we just got a few things lined up for you.” And sure as shit, I find myself in the ADF recruiting office, looking at pamphlets of Air Force and Navy and Army. I, literally, filled out paperwork for all three. This is how random it is about me joining the army and how it is I’ve got to that point.

Robbie:
The army was just the first ones to get back to me, said, “All right. Yep. Everything looks good on paperwork. Let’s hop on a bus, come down, do your aptitude and fitness testing,” et cetera, et cetera, which will seem to go pretty well. And then, yeah. Six weeks later, I’m at bloody Kapooka getting my head shaved.

Tamara:
Meant to be.

Robbie:
Yeah. Dane, tell us about you, mate. Because I know you’ve had told some ripper stories back in Podcast Season One, about us finding each other in the … you being in the friend zone for quite a while. But, yeah. Tell us about your background and why you … How’d you become to be an Air Force soldier and then, eventually an officer.

Dane:
So, mine was … They’re similar. I didn’t come from a background where we had any military influence. [inaudible 00:10:17], too, when he sort of go through it, that there’s a lot of people who were like, “Oh, my dad was in the RAAF and my uncle.” That they’re a RAAF brat, and they move around. They almost become assimilated to that and they go and do their military service.

Dane:
So, I didn’t have any of that. The way that I had my eyes … I opened to that as a career is my brother-in-law. So, my oldest sister … I’ve got three older sisters. She’s nine years older than me. He’s probably 12. With my age, he was always … He was in and I was already … I was in primary school. You know what I mean?

Dane:
Once I got out of school and I was working. So, I was like … He’s used to always sending me pictures. I think it was a picture of him drinking a beer on a Monday at nine o’clock and going, “You don’t work very hard in the military.” At the time I was like, “Oh, how dare … Slight on society, this guy. My taxes!”

Dane:
I was one of those guys. But, after a while, I started thinking like, “Maybe he’s onto something,” because he was getting a degree paid for … There was a lot of stuff and they always had very cheap … As I got more accustomed to him, we became good mates. I went through a bit of stuff with work and I thought maybe this is not a bad idea.

Dane:
I remember going to this … I was actually down at Coolangatta, so not that far away. I went and did my beep test there. Back then, you’d run in the building, so they just had chalk on the carpet.

Tamara:
Oh, wow.

Dane:
Oh, it was crazy. I remember running and there was these … I’m not being a gender person here, but we had these people there that … it seemed that they had no idea this was coming. And now we’re running this beep test and they’re going like, “Come on, you can do it.” I was like, “They’re at fucking five. If these guys can’t make … If these guys can’t get to the six, how are they going to survive?” I was running down the … up and down the beach, right? Because I was in prep. Yeah. So, sort of went through that …

Robbie:
What was the past mark? Six and a half?

Dane:
Six and a half, man.

Robbie:
We know about that already, don’t we?

Dane:
I’m still on that.

Robbie:
Going back to Season One.

Dane:
I’m still on that now. Yeah. Just before I went into recruit, because I was 27, and I remember [Bass 00:12:07] call me the day before going, “When you get down there, mate,” gave me a bit of a pep talk about when I got down there and I carried that mantra. I think I was saying in Season One, “Don’t be first. Don’t be last. Don’t let them know your name. Don’t throw your hand up. Just be one in the crowd.” He goes, “In the end, just remember every single person that’s in the RAAF has gone through this. So, if 10,000 fucking people can go through it, you can get through it.” He said, “But, just be that face in the crowd, mater, because this is only one drop in the ocean for your whole career. You just got to get through it.”

Robbie:
I wish I had a take that advice because when you’re playing A grade footy and the rough and tumble of country footy, and you’re around men as a 15 year old, it’s … all bets are off in the sheds. Let’s put it that way. And it’s … it’s very, very rough and tumble. There are C-bombs and F-bombs and, you know it, flying everywhere.

Robbie:
So, that’s what I thought it was to be a man. If you could swear and say whatever you wanted to then, that was the whole thing about being a man. Certainly, that didn’t go too well when, now remembering, I was running up the side … Actually, neither of you know what it is. Anyway, there’s a big fucking road that goes up the side of the golf course because I saw on the pamphlets, that they sent out to us, there’s this beautiful golf course at Kapooka. I’m like, “I should take my sticks with me.” And they’re like, “No, don’t bring your stick to the basic training.” You don’t bring your own golf sticks to basic training. So, we’re literally running out the side of the road here and I turn to one of the … and we’re only like all the three ranks and everything and I’m trying to learn how to march and swing my arms and body run and …

Dan:
[inaudible 00:13:30] and everywhere.

Robbie:
Yeah, yeah. That’s what I’m doing with my arms right now. If you’re watching on YouTube, you’re fucking laughing at me.

Robbie:
And I turn around to one of the instructors, who was like running side by side to me, and I said, “You C-U-N-Ts are probably of running up this hill all the time, aren’t you?” And he just looked at me and he didn’t sign anything, he just kept running.

Robbie:
So, I’ve called my recruit instructor a C-bomb. This is Week One and a half, right.

Tamara:
Oh, god.

Robbie:
I was just being casual because I used to run … I used to run along buddy [inaudible 00:13:56] blokes all the time. Sure enough, go back to the barracks … “Recruit Turner!” I’m like, “Yep.” Walk down … Bang. There’s a bloody Platoon Sergeant waiting for me at the end. Straight in to say the Platoon Sergeant and he, literally, tore my ass to bloody … gave me, gave me the rev down. I thought to myself, “I thought my old man was a hard as fuck bastard.” But, this Platoon Sergeant, bloody cheeky [inaudible 00:14:22] me like what you’ve got on right now. This is in January 1990. I was in fucking greens. SLR in green sort of shit.

Robbie:
So, it was a long, long time back then and you could … Yeah. He fucking tore me to shreds. And sure enough, I found myself on restriction of privileges. I was out at the front and now, the whole fucking platoon was out there at nine o’clock at night for a whole week marching around the parade ground because of what I did.

Tamara:
Oh.

Robbie:
And, I was the most fucking hated person in that platoon.

Dan:
I know that feeling.

Robbie:
It was fucking not good at all. So, yeah. Sure enough, a few days later, when we had … can have our one weekly phone call … No mobile phones or anything back then, right? I’m dialing on the bloody yellow phone, doing a reverse charge call back to my parents’ place. Fucking bawled my eyes out to my mom. I’m like, “What have I done? Why am I here?” I’m like, “This is not the place for me. I want to come home. This is shit.”

Tamara:
What was Maggie’s response?

Robbie:
Oh, she’s like, “Oh, you’ll be right, love. And, just still stick with it. Your grandfathers will be proud that you’re here,” and all that sort of stuff. Writing letters home, pouring my heart out. All the bloody letters that I could write home and everything.

Dan:
Have they been kept?

Robbie:
Yeah, I reckon they have. Yeah, yeah. I’ll be very surprised if they haven’t.

Tamara:
I’ll have to suss Maggie.

Dan:
Margaret, now that you’re listening, you know that we want to see those letters, right?

Robbie:
Mate, it was shit. It was … speak about the transition from being a cocky, confident feat-motivated young man … I guess maybe that’s the trait to you asking me to put forward before I couldn’t answer it, but I’m in the zone now. I got bloody torn back to bare bones, and I, literally, was at the bottom of the platoon and had to start again from there.

Robbie:
Did either of you guys … and I’m not excluding you here, Tammy. You’ll come to your many, many, many diverse experiences in the military real soon. Tell us about your …

Dane:
Recruits.

Robbie:
Now, what was the … what was like the … We’re talking about RAAF recruits here, mate. You said RAAF brat before, and I thought, “I haven’t even heard of that before. The army brat.”

Tamara:
We learned a little story on the weekend …

Dane:
On the weekend.

Robbie:
Yeah, yeah. Tell us that.

Tamara:
… about …

Dane:
I’ve got a few.

Tamara:
… about the handy tips you have for some recruits on how to save time, I guess you’d say.

Dane:
Even though my instructions about keep your head down … and it’s funny, when you also told me that before about … it’s not until you’re going through that transitioning, going into the military, that people that have had any military service, so … My mom’s Belgian, right. She come when she’s 20. My granddad, so you say [Pietra 00:16:54] in … [Petro 00:16:55] in Flemish. He actually served in the Belgian Army in World War II. Never said a word to me for 27 years about it until I was like, “I’m going in.”

Dan:
Thought you were going to say, “Never said a word to you for 27 years.” And then, they’re like, “Oh …”

Robbie:
That’s my grandson. I don’t want to fucking talk to you.

Dan:
Yeah. Now, you’re like, “Oh. Now, you’re joining the military. [crosstalk 00:17:11].”

Robbie:
I’m actually going to bring that up soon. Going to Belgium, that is.

Dane:
So, when I was also going in, same thing. The army called me first. I remember him just saying like, “Don’t join the army.” And I was like, “All right. I’ll stay strong.” And my brother-in-law, as well, to me, he goes, “You do not want to go to the Army.” And then, I was like, “All right. I’ll stay put and wait until the RAAF comes around.” And they did, eventually.

Dane:
And then, when I went in … And it’s hard to be the grimy. Well, because I was 27. I remember when I first got in and you go down there to get your head shaved. When I got down there, I was like, “Oh, just short back and sides.”

Dan:
[inaudible 00:17:44].

Dane:
[crosstalk 00:17:44].

Robbie:
It’ll be very short.

Dane:
And he’s like, “Oh, mate, I think you need to shave it.” I’m like, “Well … no, just …” And then, I go, “No, just short back and sides, mate. Just do that.” And he goes, “You can go ask the Sergeant.” The sergeant’s outside going, “Get in the fucking line.” Just ripping into people outside. And I was like, “Just shave it, mate. Shave it … Whatever you got to do. I don’t want to go anywhere near that bloke.”

Dane:
I had multiple things. In the end … because I was a bit older, I became the course orderly for two weeks. Detrimental, right? But, I had these things … I used to always try and think. Robbie’s calling me on the weekends, he goes, “You’re smart, lazy. That’s what you were.” But, I had ones like … So, we had to go field for three days. And I remember how painful it was to clean your weapon because of all the carbon, right, when you’re shooting the blanks. And I was like, “Oh, so good. If I get out there …”

Dane:
I’m standing in my pit and there’s five rounds shooting. And, I hadn’t shot anything for two days. And I went to the last night, I’m like, “This is fucking gooey,” because every time during the day, they’re like, “Weapon check.” And they keep on shoving their fingers all these different chambers and stuff and going, “Oh, ACRH has got a beautiful … Everyone get … Beautiful. He’s …”

Tamara:
Cleans it well.

Dane:
Yeah. So, I go to the last night …

Robbie:
Wasn’t fooling around.

Dane:
… I had these blanks. I end up going out on picket, going out and burying them and hiding them. I went through three days … never, never shot. I protected this outpost, never shot anything. And it was brilliant because my weapon was great and they’re like, “Oh, he’s fantastic.” But then, I have …

Tamara:
You said a similar thing with their little stove as well.

Dane:
Oh, yeah.

Robbie:
Oh, yeah.

Dane:
So, just eating all my food cold and that old cook … Everyone’s making these hot chocolates and shit. Then, they’re getting blasted because they can’t clean them and get them back to [crosstalk 00:19:24].

Dan:
The Dixies.

Dane:
Yeah.

Tamara:
Little stove. So, he never cooked and he, literally, never set it on fire so that he never had to clean it.

Dan:
For the grand total of 72 hours, mind you.

Robbie:
Oh, fucking, mate.

Dane:
It was … It was a struggle. But anyway, they keep holding mine up in front of everyone going, “This is how you clean it. This is a great fucking …” But, it had never cooked. Right? That’s why I looks so good. Anyway, so I had a lot of stuff like that.

Dane:
Underneath your bed, you had your sleeping bag. So, once I finally did get my bed made right, I was like, “Well, I’m not fucking sleeping in that. It’s taken me bloody weeks to get that 30 centimeter fold.” So, every night, I’m on the carpet. I just sleep on the carpet every night because I was like, “Well, it saves me time in the morning while I’m watching all these dickheads in my room, trying to measure their bloody fold and getting blasted. Whereas, mine was just picturesque the whole time.

Dane:
Then, I had other ones with short changes. So, I would come back from PT … It worked for a couple of weeks, but I remember we had come back from PT, get changed … It’s always a crazy time. You got 30 seconds to get out of your …

Dan:
Doing a split stop.

Robbie:
Doing a split.

Dane:
Yeah, just to grind. So, I get up, I go, “I’ll just throw me bloody cams over the top of it.” So, I was standing in the hallway and they’re walking up and down. They get to me, come back and he walks backwards. He stops, he turns and looks at me and he pushes down my green, because that’s when we had the greens, the blues hadn’t come in yet. And he pulls down my green undershirt and there’s my blue PT shirt. And he just rips into me. He goes, “Once again, ATR Roche thinks he can outsmart the system.” And next thing, everyone’s out doing drills.

Robbie:
Same here.

Dane:
And they’re all just going like, “Fucking, Dane’s killing us. Dane’s killing us.” Yeah, so just … That was pretty much my recruit, just trying something and then getting my ass kicked for it.

Tamara:
I just think it’s hilarious that you slept on the floor in a sleeping bag to not make your bed.

Dane:
I had good posture after that.

Robbie:
It’s a little bit like what you say here, when you have new people come and start at Axon. It’s like fucking madness for the first couple of months, but then, the jigsaw puzzle makes sense. Once the jigsaw puzzle made sense to me, or actually started to get a bit of traction, I loved being in the army. I was fucking first over the bloody obstacle course. I was not that guy who wasn’t shooting. I was fucking shooting all my rounds at everyone, at everything. I loved it. Like I really, really did say. Tammy, let’s switch across to you because I know you’ve got a very long and distinguished history from a military perspective as well. Tell us about that, Corporal.

Tamara:
Corporal? Oh, Corporal Moore in 203 Regional Cadets in Parramatta, in Sydney.

Robbie:
Stand fast.

Tamara:
Yup.

Robbie:
March on the banner.

Tamara:
Yeah. 1990 more … 1997 to 1999, maybe.

Robbie:
Now, [inaudible 00:21:53] on your sheen. You didn’t get your head shaved?

Tamara:
No.

Robbie:
No.

Tamara:
No.

Robbie:
You were like, what? 13, 14, 15?

Tamara:
Yeah.

Robbie:
Young lady?

Tamara:
Yeah.

Robbie:
Why did you go to the cadets?

Tamara:
Probably to meet boys really?

Robbie:
Fair enough.

Dane:
There’s plenty there.

Dan:
That’s probably a great place to start.

Tamara:
My parents were pretty strict. So, I think … Yeah. It was kind of just to be a bit social, I guess. One of my friends from school had started doing it and brought me along and I thought that was pretty cool. Sleeping in hootchies, river [wacks 00:22:29].

Robbie:
Now, tell us about your … You’ve got a very refined palate. You’ve eaten some amazing food around the world. You tell me you’re all the time about … Or, you need to interpret the menu for me.

Tamara:
Oh. No, this is because you look at our dog food and you go, “Oh, it’s like a [dehyd 00:22:40]. And I’m like …

Robbie:
Yes.

Dan:
Rehydrate.

Robbie:
Yeah.

Tamara:
… “What?” And he goes, “Yeah. this is so good. This is like the stuff I used to eat in the army.” And I’m like, “Oh, from rat packs.” I remember those.

Robbie:
Tell us about your rat pack stories.

Tamara:
I never ate a single one. I was not eating that dog meat. I would like … I would transfer …

Robbie:
Dog meat? It was fucking highly refined meat from the 1970s.

Tamara:
And it has … The cadets always got the expired packs. So, as we’re …

Dan:
Don’t get me wrong. All of them are.

Robbie:
We all got the expired packs.

Tamara:
Oh. And, I would just trade them for two fruits, M&Ms, and [Sayers 00:23:22] and, basically, live for three days on that.

Dan:
What about fuck off [behees 00:23:28]?

Robbie:
Yeah. They’re all biscuits. Biscuit sandwich, jam filled.

Tamara:
I don’t know what that is.

Dan:
Oh.

Robbie:
They’re called Fuck-off Biscuits because if anyone wants to try them, there’s only one word … Fuck-off. That’s with a hyphen, by the way. Hey, so to go to the end of my … I love it, Tammy, that you’re Corporal Moore from nobody cares back in the day. You love it.

Tamara:
Dane, when you found out about that, you’re like, “I can normally pick at cadet.”

Dane:
Yeah.

Tamara:
“I did not …”

Robbie:
Oh, tell us your story. You saw a bloody Warrant Officer Cadet or something. Who told me that story recent? Fucking listen to this.

Dane:
So, we were … This is recruits as well. You know in recruits … I’ve got this little mate. He’s named [Seine 00:24:02]. He’s a little Indian fella. We’re in the fucking mess and we walk out … and back then, everyone’s still trying to work out their ranks. People are calling corporals fucking sergeants and getting in trouble. You’re going to go do these rank slides and all that and draw them.

Dane:
So, I’m walking out and there’s all these cadets there. I said to Seine, I’m like, “Oh, mate, you’re going to have to salute that … You’re going to have to salute that Warrant Officer just there.” And he’s like, “Oh, shit.”

Dane:
He walks up to this kid, who’s probably 12, throws him the bone and I just burst out laughing. And then, he gets berated from our MSI because sees him. He goes, “Not only have you just saluted a cadet, he’s not even a fucking officer.”

Dane:
Oh, I loved it, mate. I loved it. So …

Dan:
This is our Dane. That’s how you remain the Gray Man, just by throwing other people under the bus, mate. Poor Seine.

Tamara:
Are you still friends with him?

Dane:
Yeah.

Tamara:
You’ll have to share the link to this one.

Dane:
Good fellow.

Robbie:
Oh, that was gold.

Tamara:
I mean, gets a cameo.

Robbie:
So, as I sort of started to get my shit together at Kapooka, I’m just about to leave Kapooka, too, ladies and gents. We, of course, you get the preferences to go to which corps come around and they give a presentation about what each corps does, what the Army Corps does, what the artillery does, what the infantry does, what the engineers do, what the truckies do, what the medical do. They’re like everyone. Then, you’re like, “Holy shit.” And you have, still … I had zero idea what the rest of the army did, looked like, acted, did. I just knew about rundown, crawl, observe, aim, fire. And you had to put cam cream on, eat a rat pack with everything, by the way, put a fucking hootchie on and go over the obstacle course and fucking fire my gun. And then, you had to salute, march, all that sort of shit. That’s it. That’s all I knew.

Robbie:
But, there’s this Bombardier, his name’s Bombardier [Kraut 00:25:41]. Ended up being a fucking … warrants a Class One in the Arterial, I believe. I saw him once. He wasn’t an our platoon, but I saw him do an instruction on something else. I’m like, “Fucking Bombardier. He’s the only other dude who’s not called Corporal. That’s a cool name.”

Robbie:
I had no idea he was from the artillery. I had no idea what he did, but as soon as the Corp preferences came along, they said, “[inaudible 00:26:02].” I said, “Artillery.” Boom. “I’m just going to fucking tick that.” I didn’t know they had guns, cannons, fucking whatever else. So, that’s the reason why I put it in there. And then, I was one of only three that got chosen to go to the artillery at the end of the recruit course.

Tamara:
You literally chose it to be called Bombardier?

Robbie:
Yep. That’s it. That’s how I ended up in the role.

Dan:
A bombardier?

Tamara:
Really researched.

Robbie:
Lots of research was always … It was done [crosstalk 00:26:25].

Dane:
So, you got streamlined there, at the end of it.

Dan:
Back in those days, yeah.

Robbie:
Well, now I believe you get streamlined when you first joined. It was like in the last three weeks, you started to get preferences and it was a little bit like what [inaudible 00:26:37] training is, Dane. Your performance on the course then, gives you a bit of a pecking order about whether you do or don’t get …

Dan:
That’s crazy.

Robbie:
Preference one, two, or three.

Dane:
RAAF you selected before you go any …

Dan:
Well, mate, nowadays with the army, they’re like, “Yeah, you get to select it before you get in, but if you don’t get the one you want, don’t worry. You can change it later.” I have yet to find someone who’s been able to change their career preference at Kapooka.

Dane:
Yeah. That’s a DFR myth.

Dan:
Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

Dane:
Yeah.

Robbie:
So, 23rd of January, 1990, I graduated at … not graduated, marched out of Kapooka. It was good. Mama and Nan came over, fucking proud as punch. When that bloody bees in the Vic tour, in the Vic Hotel in [Wallbury 00:27:12], et cetera, et cetera.

Dane:
Oh, yeah.

Robbie:
Really, really, really, really great memories. Shipped off on a bus directly to Manly. So, the School of Artillery was in Manly back then …

Dan:
Yeah.

Robbie:
… before it went down to the Puckapunyal.

Tamara:
Is that in North Head?

Robbie:
Yeah. The North Head. So, here’s me, still … I was only … I was 17 years, one month and 23 days when I joined the military. I’m obviously now, not even 17 and a half yet grew up in a small country town, didn’t even have a set of traffic lights and I’m fucking logged in Manly.

Dane:
You would’ve loved that.

Robbie:
It was gold. It was fucking … It was awesome. This was back in the early nineties, right? Where they always know, [inaudible 00:27:48], bouncers out the front, checking people’s IDs and shit. No one gave a fuck then. You could get … walk in anywhere and do anything.

Robbie:
A really great sound memory I had is that we, as the latest graduates from Kapooka, got chosen to then go and push all the World War I veterans in the Anzac Day March in Sydney because then, all the World War I veterans were still alive back then.

Dan:
Yeah.

Robbie:
There was probably a hundred or so of them, and, yeah, I got chosen to push the wheelchair of a World War I veteran, never been to Sydney before, of course. Growing up in a bloody town with only 15, 20,000 people there, and there’s fucking hundreds of thousands of people lining the bloody joint.

Tamara:
There was probably more people at the march than there was in your whole town.

Robbie:
That’s what I just said. Hundreds of thousands of people fucking lining the streets. And, from that moment on, I was like, “I am never going back to the country.” If this is what it’s like …

Dane:
[crosstalk 00:28:40] got lost. And you’re pushing something down another street …

Robbie:
No, no, no. There’s …

Dan:
It’s like, “Someone’s stolen a World War I …”

Robbie:
It’s funny. When you’re in a procession, you just follow the person in front and you shouldn’t get lost. But, no, no. It was a fucking really, really awesome thing and just to be there, cenotaph. That was the first time I heard the last post. That’s when I really, really started to get the first feeling of, “Fuck. I’m in the military.” Yeah. You sort of knew about the Anzac spirit in the Anzac legend back at school, blah, blah, blah, blah. But, it’s certainly not as publicized and got as much attention and vibe as what it does now. But yeah. I really, really started to feel like I was in the military. I’m like, “Wow. I think I’ve now done the wrong thing. And this is, this is really, really cool.”

Tamara:
I feel like even some of our staff have felt that as well with the Anzac Day stuff. Before, it’s stuff you did at school or you know about it, but you don’t really have that connection. And I feel that even our non-military people, staff members, they feel that real connection now that they’re a part of the Axon family and even our extended Axon community. Once you have that sort of connection, it really means something different.

Dane:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). I like they prioritize it too. They come and they partake because they know it’s very special to us. I celebrate Anzac Day with the same five or six blokes. I’ve been celebrating it from when I went in and came an AC and got posted with my first unit and stuff, and we’ve been mates ever since. And we always said, “No matter where we go, we’re always, on Anzac Day, come back together and celebrate it together.”

Tamara:
Nice.

Dane:
So, it’s nice, though, because you come back and … some of them are still in, some of them were for Boeing and going on to different things and so on and so forth. But, it’s nice to come back and have a beer. When I grew up and you heard about it, it never felt like … You knew of it. You knew of the sacrifice and stuff, but it’s stuff that just taught to you and told to you, but then when you go in and you meet people and all that sort of stuff, you start to …

Dan:
Start to feel it.

Dane:
Yeah. You start to feel it and the excitement going into it and like fucking two up and at the pub. I just used to love all that thought to it. I just enjoy it so much.

Tamara:
I know this year, it meant a lot more to Shea and [Sharm 00:30:46] from Ramson Law. Deb House, our mortgage broker … just the them sharing it with us this year. When they came afterwards, they were like, “I’ve never experienced an Anzac Day like that and just feeling that connection.” So, it was so good.

Robbie:
And the hangover [inaudible 00:31:02].

Dan:
We even had the hangover the next day.

Robbie:
We even had Christie, who’s a Flight Sergeant in the Air Force, fly out from Canberra to the Goldie to come and spend it with Axon as a client. So, that’s probably awesome.

Dane:
That’s really cool. And so, bit of a moment that sort of … I was getting fucking texts from Shea. So, I was like, “I heard you was here first thing in the morning.” Right?

Tamara:
Yeah.

Dane:
And then, I start getting these text messages from her at like … because I was still up in Brisbane.

Dan:
Shoot. Staff come and drink.

Dane:
Yes. I had one drink. So, it was 4:30 in the afternoon. She’s like, “It’s Shazzer here.” And I was just thinking, “Shit. She [inaudible 00:31:32].”

Tamara:
She got in it.

Dan:
She’s enjoying it.

Tamara:
So, next year, anyone that wants to join us, come along and …

Dan:
Here’s an early invitation.

Tamara:
Yeah. Woo.

Robbie:
It was one of those things I loved not being in Kapooka anymore. Like, “I’m out. I’m a gunner now.” I got promoted to gunner. But, let me tell you the introduction. There’s a little saying in artillery, and Dan, you spent some time up at the A12 medium regiment as it was then, in Darwin. It is a … Tell you what, how would you describe the regiment or environment in an artillery unit?

Dan:
Intense. It’s actually what I would refer to as regimental, like very regimented in every single step they do. Like they run …

Tamara:
What do you mean by that?

Dan:
As in, if you don’t like being yelled at, don’t go to artillery. I remember one day the guns were actually getting put on some aircraft. So these … This is up in Darwin. The aircraft have landed out at the RAAF base there, driven the guns out. And the [Beersam 00:32:34] was just tearing shreds off all the gunners and the bombers and everything like that. And I swear to God, the pilots and the loadies are shitting themselves because of how much yelling was going on. And that’s … It wasn’t scary. That’s just how they talk. Just get used to being yelled at and yelled at, and yelled at because …

Dane:
Pilots are not used to that.

Robbie:
Because here’s the thing …

Tamara:
I would be so scared.

Robbie:
If something goes wrong, when there’s a 15 or 43 kilogram projectile in the air, and it’s going to fucking land in the wrong spot because someone hasn’t followed the drill, so they didn’t do the checks.

Dan:
A bunch of hatred at the back end of it.

Robbie:
The ruthless implementation of the independent check wasn’t done, and you’re going to fucking kill someone or something. Or bloody … far [inaudible 00:33:19] or something. That’s a story for another time. [inaudible 00:33:22].

Dane:
It’s the exposure of it. When we were in recruits, we had a day went to the wets, right? So, we drove from RAAF base. We’ll go over to Kapooka. And when we go in there …

Dan:
You would’ve loved that.

Robbie:
Fuck. And we …

Dane:
It was hell.

Robbie:
If we’d just gone from live fire artillery to the wets … [crosstalk 00:33:34]. That’s all right.

Dan:
Well, Dane did because he never had to clean his rifle at the back end of it, so-

Dane:
We go to the wets. And then, as the bus pulls in at MSR, [inaudible 00:33:43] goes, “Just remember, this place is full of army. So, just stick together.” And we’re like, “Okay.” So, we get out and we got our stupid weapons on and we look like pelicans walking around.

Dane:
So, we walk in and then all I remember is this guy walking past, didn’t have his hat on. And this Sergeant just going like, “Oi,” to this army bloke. “Where’s your fucking hat. You get the fuck [inaudible 00:34:03], you idiot.” And we all just went, “Whew.” We all just glued to each other, like holy shit.

Dan:
Like bloody side aids on the water main just went. Get me off this boat.

Robbie:
So, that’s what `it was like, right? When I was doing my IT or initial employment training at gun line for six, eight weeks, whatever it was up at the School of Artillery at North Head. There were fucking 10 big burly, fucking gun sergeants, fucking cruising around, fucking barking orders. It was like walking on your … Your whole life was on eggshells and you were fucking marching out the front, answering your name. Yes, sir. No, sir. Fucking this way, that way, marching, running. Fucking you name it. It was intense.

Tamara:
Years ago, I did the ghost tour up at the Q Station up at North Head.

Dane:
Nice.

Tamara:
Which is fucking spooky as shit. But, I reckon there’s a few souls from the people that were yelled at.

Robbie:
Oh, fuck yeah. It was …

Tamara:
Not just the quarantine station, but I reckon there’s a few souls that got left behind there from the sound of it.

Robbie:
But, again, it was right up my alley. A little bit like drill. You yell when you’re in drill to instill confidence in yourself and those around you. So, when you’re on the gun line, you fucking yell when you had to, and you’ve got to follow the orders. Everything gets done to a, literally, military precision style activity. Once again, to make sure it’s … nothing fucks up.

Robbie:
So, I got from there, finished there and I’m like, “Sweet”. Now, I’m a qualified gunner and I got posted out to 812 Manly regiments. This was in …

Dan:
Those the early days before they moved to Darwin.

Robbie:
I was just about to say, so the whole of one brigade, ladies and gents, for those that are … that … What is in Darwin now, was in Holsworthy.

Dan:
What is it Darwin and Adelaide, now, used to be in Holsworthy.

Robbie:
True good point. So the whole of 57, the whole of 1 Armored, the whole of 2 Kev, the whole of 812, the whole of 1 Transport, the whole of fucking 1CR. There was 5,000 troops at Holsworthy. It was fucking massive. So, to be out there and being a part of that was really, really cool. Down the Puck every couple of months, doing massive brigade level activities, and it was fucking very, very intense. Right?

Robbie:
It’s almost like as you go up a little bit, you always get knocked down a couple of pegs. I remember in late 1990, again, now I’m getting even more confident. I’m doing reasonably well on the gun line. We went down and did some adventure training down in Tasmania. It’s in a … mountain bike everywhere, et cetera, et cetera. I had to get up … I had to go to bed early and get up for picket, and one of the other guys fucking followed me back from where we were and came back to the bloody tent and fucking filled me in. He’s like, “Everyone fucking hates you. You’re a fucking gobby little prick. I’m here to fucking deliver a message to you. Pull your fucking head in,” and fucking literally tanned my ass. He’s a big burly bloke. He’d been there in the unit for five years. Five years as a Senior Digger and you’re there for fucking five weeks. He’s like a bloody walking god, so that was a real eye opener to me.

Robbie:
I’m like, “I need to pull my fucking head in because this is, obviously, not going too well. Yeah, that was an interesting little experience to go through. That is commonly known, now, ladies and gents, as dead ground counseling.

Dan:
I’m just curious now. Obviously, you probably have in hindsight and reflection some idea of the shit you were doing that wasn’t enamoring for yourself to the other lads. What type of stuff were you doing, as a young Digger, there that put you on the wrong side of them?

Robbie:
I used to get plenty of feedback from the Senior Diggers at [lance checks 00:37:33] and the full tracks. Just being arrogant, just being cocky, just not … not being insubordinate because, obviously, that’s bad. You get charged for that and bloody thrown in jail. But, just not being a good team player, not putting others … not putting others before yourself. I’ve got to say, just being a little bit selfish there.

Robbie:
Yeah. It was an interesting little experience to go to. This fucking guy certainly bloody whacked me around the head a few times and went to bed, fucking crying again. That night going, “Fuck. What have I …” Pull your fucking head in sort of thing. Yeah. It was an interesting little activity.

Robbie:
I was working on a gun by the legend himself, Stretch Phillips. Sergeant Mark Phillips. He was a big fucking … big gangly fucking maniac of a man. Legend in the bloody … in the artillery. And this is where I really, really started to find my true self.

Robbie:
He was ruthless. There were no excuses for anything. We were … had to be the first gun into action and out of action. You’re now chuckling, Dane, because you know what it’s like when you’re there. He brought a sense of competitiveness. He brought a sense of ruthlessness. He brought a sense of teamwork into my life, that I still am so grateful today. Just the way that he taught us and the way that he mentored us.

Robbie:
We’re all fucking shit scared of him and he used to berate the fuck out of us all the time. But, as we all say, now, it came from a place of love. You didn’t know that at the time, but he really, really made us into the men that we were and the other guys that were on my gun.

Tamara:
Is he still around?

Robbie:
Yeah, yeah. Fucking know he is. Yeah, yeah. 100%. Yeah. Great bloke. Great bloke.

Tamara:
I didn’t know if he was a really older guy than you were.

Robbie:
Well, he was fucking older when I’m 18 years old. Yeah, yeah.

Tamara:
That’s why I’m asking.

Robbie:
No, no. See. He would have been in his mid 30s, early 40s, I suppose. As a bloody high-flying flying gun side. Many, many years later, I got to be a gun Sergeant as well. And also to share that with you, but yeah. And, certainly, I drive my guys and we did the same sorts of things there. So, to have that sort of organized chaos … It’s funny, Dan, you know a lot of [inaudible 00:39:35] a little bit about the artillery because you are now sitting here nodding your head, smoking gun. I know exactly what you’re talking about, but you never knew me as a senior NCO.

Dan:
No, no, no. I was just giggling about it because I was thinking about some of the young bombers that were also filling that role in the … I can just remember a few of them. [Bobby Finlay 00:39:53] was one of them that straight up comes to mind of like … He would have … A., also been that young Bombardier or senior Digger that would have been quite happily able to flog you about and provide you some of that performance counseling. But, at the same time, he was also the one that was ruthless in driving people to be first and action, every single time. Without fail. You just know who those one or two people are in each of the gun lines as well. And you’re just like, “Yeah, I’ve seen that quite a few times.” And you know that person is driving their team to a higher level than the others you see around them.

Robbie:
You know, I love that competitive environment. I love that. No excuses, no whingeing, nothing ever. It was just like be the best, be the best, be the best. So, I was really lucky I got promoted to Lance Bombardier, a couple of years later. So, here I was a 20 year old dung junior NCO, which I was extremely proud about and I really, really enjoyed that. And then, I went and did my junior leadership course. You know sometimes, Tammy, I’m like, “Better,” when I say that.

Robbie:
There was a guy, who was on my junior leadership course in 1993, he asked us to do a bloody, a piece of drill that he gave the wrong command with. And then, he had to back out of it a little bit and then, we did it properly and he’s like, “Better.” That’s now with me fucking 30 years later.

Robbie:
So, it’s funny how those little sayings come there. But, I loved drill. I loved being … giving drill to other people.. I love that teamwork and real embodiment of being a junior NCO, really came to the fall back then.

Robbie:
A couple years later, I was presented with a soldier’s medallion as well. I got Soldier of the Year for 1993, and that’s what got me on a trip. There’s a 75th anniversary of World War I and then, we took all the World War I veterans … there was still about 30 or 40 … a lot. I suppose they were dropping like flies back then. So, the 70, 80 that were still alive in 1990, fast forward three or four years, so it’s probably half of them there.

Robbie:
We were the military contingent that went across there. We actually did a service at the Menin Gate, at Ypres there, which joined Belgium and France. They still play the last post there every single night now, based on the actions that were there. That was amazing to go to like Polygon, Woodmont, Saint Quintin, the Battle of the Somme, et cetera, et cetera.

Robbie:
We went to all these other battlefields, the heart and soul of the Anzac legend, besides Gallipoli, anyway. Certainly, on the western front in France. We got to travel around there for three weeks and it was fucking awesome. Like the same again. I got to hear the last post. We did so many rehearsals. And then, we did the actual bloody thing there. I got to … The actual thing being the ceremony.

Robbie:
I got to go up there and lay a wreath in the eternal flame of the Arc de Triomphe, for instance, in fucking Paris. Same thing. Thank you.

Tamara:
Triumph.

Robbie:
Triumph? Bloody. All right. I’m from the country. Isn’t it funny? Sometimes, you’re like, “Geez, you’re a fucking [bogan 00:42:42] sometimes, Robbie.” I’m like, “No. I’m from the country. It’s different. I’m not a bogan.”

Robbie:
So, again, I just had, literally, fucking … The green was pumping through my veins by this stage. I loved being a Junior NCO. I loved being in the army. I was fit as fuck. The captain coached the Aussie Rules team. I was a bloody athletics champion at one brigade sports thing there. Yeah, it was a really, really awesome time of my life, I suppose.

Robbie:
When did you really … Dane, when did you really start hitting your straps to go, “I’m actually loving being in the Air Force right now.” When was that? Give a bit of a sense of those moments.

Dane:
Probably when I went to see 7AIMS, to be honest. Once you get in, you get there, initially. There’s eight jets there and they always used to say, “You see the world one night at a time because there’s heavy airlift, right? You could leave Alaska … Anchorage in Alaska and you could fly and had to add refuel and punch people out the back to NEHRA. And then, pivot there and then, land in Amberley, one flight. You can go fucking anywhere on this thing.

Dane:
I think when I first got in, you’re a fucking junior and you’re just trying to just get good at your job. So, try and get good at your job, and I was probably a bit similar like I asked all the questions. I always put my hand up for more difficult task because I wanted to get on to those. I think we keep expanding my skillset. Once I did that, I got noticed for doing that. I will go to Dan, if you want to talk about anything sort of liquid drug breathing oxygen or anything like that.

Dane:
Once that happened, I started getting on those trips and started moving around a lot on those trips. I get in to go over to America. You could come in to work, 8:00 in the morning, throw your bags on the jet and you’d be in Waikiki that night, partying at Kelly’s. Once I did it, I was like, “Fuck, man. I could do this for the rest of my life.” But, I just knew that’s unachievable because in the end you get posted at some point, but being able to go and do that was amazing.

Robbie:
Yeah. Awesome. Yeah. Good. Dan, what about you? When did you realize that you got over the thrill of joining? You’re in the groove now. Let’s quickly tell that story about you meeting me at Duntroon, et cetera. Obviously, you would have got out …

Dan:
I don’t know if anyone wants to hear that, mate.

Robbie:
I’ll tell it just quickly.

Dan:
No, it’s …

Robbie:
Yeah, you go. You go. Yeah.

Dan:
Obviously, way down at Duntroon in the cadets’ mess there, you got. There’s a rather large stairway up to the dining hall and everything like that. We were having a dining in night there and there was a few bottles of wine probably consumed. And, obviously, by the end of the night, the port gets passed around the table and everyone’s very, very merry.

Dan:
But then, we decided we had some best games and there was a few office chairs that were around the place. There was, basically, a relay race around the cadets mess there. It all ended rather tamely throughout the evening. And then, some people were like, “No worries. We’ll just kick on. We’ll have a few more beers here and we’ll see where the night goes.”

Dan:
Then, one of my most fond memories of RT is when he was sitting on one of those said office chairs and decided to push himself backwards down the set of stairs all the way out the front of the cadets mess.

Robbie:
I don’t know how I didn’t fucking break my neck. This is probably 30 stairs that I fell down backwards.

Dan:
And you just watched him tumble and tumble and tumble and then tumble. I can’t remember who it was … Maybe Nick [Hoto 00:45:55] was there at the time.

Robbie:
Yeah. Someone come and grab me on the … on the [inaudible 00:46:00].

Dan:
He said, “Turner, is time for you to leave, buddy.”

Robbie:
It’s time for you to leave.

Dan:
But, that’s one of the earliest memories, I suppose, I have and it’s probably not the last time that I’ve seen Robbie passed out or in a state where he’s fallen down a set of stairs.

Robbie:
Something similar?

Dan:
It was probably the first time that I saw it. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Robbie:
But, where? When did you … [inaudible 00:46:18]. You’re going through Duntroon, doing the officer training and then, same sort of deal got yourself in unit life. When did you really start that?

Dan:
When I realized I knew nothing. That was the most powerful point to me, obviously. As a young officer, you always get told, “Oh, you need to listen to people around you,” and everything like that. But, you’ve also like gone through the college of knowledge. You know shit, right? But, as a young [RAMY 00:46:41] officer, basically, I got paired up with either a very senior WO2 or a WO1, so people who have been in the military for 20, 25 years at that point in time and they actually know boats. You’re not just turning up yarn, “I know boats.” You actually find people who know boats.

Tamara:
What does that mean? No boats?

Dan:
I know boats? It’s like when someone says, “I know a boat. I know everything about that.” You actually find someone who actually knows everything about it from that perspective.

Dane:
Just faking. [inaudible 00:47:08].

Dan:
Yes.

Tamara:
It’s a military phrase.

Robbie:
Yeah. Yeah. I guess what Dan is talking about, a lot of people think they know boats, but they don’t actually know boats.

Tamara:
You don’t know what you don’t know.

Robbie:
Well, people are just fucking jawing off a bit. Well, yeah. That’s right. Yeah.

Dane:
That’s a bit of a product, though … that. of that. I know Robbie and I went through commissioning after being in the military. I always think that …

Robbie:
We’re still in the military when we get commissioned.

Dane:
Yeah. I always used to think you can always tell someone who’s a direct officer or a mixed blood.

Dan:
Yeah.

Dane:
Because they always to … when you get a direct officer, their views on-

Robbie:
Go easy on him.

Dane:
Yeah. Sorry. Don’t make any fences, but … Their views of how that-

Dan:
I’ve got some knife hands here, too, but …

Dane:
Their views of how they manage people always seems to be a bit off kilter. And I think … because I went through and breathed that when going through that training. They’re like, “Oh, you got to get in. You need to be able to mentor your troops and stuff like that.” I’m like, “Fuck, mate. When you get in there, they’ll be mentoring you,” because when you’ve got a warrant officer or a flight Sergeant or a Sergeant who’s been there for … plying this trade for 30 years or whatever it is, also to tell you what they’ll … You’ll be with them and you’ll walk literally next to them. All you’re going to be doing is signing things.

Robbie:
Yup.

Dan:
Yeah,

Dane:
But, they’ll be telling you what to sign. You’ll slowly grow from that. And then, when you become more of a senior officer, then it pivots. It’s something that I think comes out of training, I think.

Dan:
Yeah. Yeah. But, eventually when I realized … I’m like … Actually, I don’t really know what’s going on here. I think the first time I really had to slow sand on my own two feet and really rely upon one of those senior WO1s or WO2s was when I was posted to 89. So I went to 812, and then I came back to 89 at the infantry battalion, unlike …

Robbie:
Brisbane here.

Dan:
In Brizy. In Brizy. And, I had a relatively strong WO1 beside me, who taught me a lot of shit. But, also like what you said there, Dane. Whereas, he’ll tell you what to sign. He was less about telling you what to sign. He would actually explain to you what you needed to sign from that instance. And then, he’d be like, “Oh, and by the way, you need to go and crack skulls up at the CEO’s conference.” And he’d just put me in front of people and be like, “You need to go and do that.”

Robbie:
Yup.

Dan:
“That is your job is to be able to look after the lads, represent our interests and do all of that stuff.” But, he empowered me with the knowledge that I needed to be actually able to go and do that. You don’t necessarily get that when you’re an officer, from that, you need to have those really exceptional people around you that are willing to take the time and effort to do that. And that’s probably when I started to hit my straps, I reckon.

Dane:
And that’s funny too, because it can be a little bit of a licorice all sorts. Right? I had one where I came through and in the Senior … I’m not going to slight them, but they probably weren’t up to scratch. But then, I moved to one where I had fantastic Warrant Officer.

Dane:
[Deans 00:49:52], give you a shout as well, mate. Fantastic. I remember him saying to me, he goes, “I manage by making officers feel bad.” And the way he would talk and stuff like that, it was something, a beauty man. You’re like fucking Shakespeare, mate.

Robbie:
That’s mentorship, mate. That’s gold.

Dane:
He’s incredible. Incredible. The things you’d impart and the stuff like … It always … Whenever I go like, “I’ll wait until [inaudible 00:50:14].” He goes, “Well, what’s our intent? What are we trying to achieve?” Like, what are we trying to achieve? Always bring me back to these core things. He’s fantastic. [inaudible 00:50:20]. You should just go straight to fucking squadron leader, that’s what I reckon. But, he was just … Having something like that, but he’d been … He was an ADG. He’d been in since probably Robbie, to join 1990. Just a fantastic-

Dan:
Like junior Roman centurion, back in the day?

Dane:
Just amazing. Really, really good. So, I really valued my time with him because I got to spend 18 months with him as a junior officer. And he was just … Yeah. A very, very, very good.

Robbie:
All right. Awesome.

Dan:
Yeah. I was going to say, [inaudible 00:50:48] when you’re talking about there being senior enlisted, like warrant officers and there’s warrant officers like … and who I also met at RMC. She was an officer as well. We often have a chuckled about … We’ll say like, “Oi, they’re such a warrant officer,” because the typical version of the warrant officer, not the type or the mentoring warrant officer that I’ve spoken about, but it being a little licorice all sorts as we spoke about. Those not high-performers are just such warrant officers.

Dane:
Just checking out?

Dan:
Yeah.

Dane:
Those ones are checking out. But, when you get one that still has the buy-in and the knowledge, it is so good for your development. And, Robbie, you know more than anyone, obviously, being top of one tier and then moving to the other?

Robbie:
Yeah, it was, it was interesting. I’ll come back to the rest of my story soon and we’ll wrap this episode up in a second, but let me just finish off here. I loved going to Duntroon as a captain instructor, having not gone through there as a cadet. It was weird because I was like … I was walking around and asking the other captains, “Hey, where’s the ROP? Where’s the Orderly Room? Where’s the Q store?” And they’re looking at me going, “hat do you fucking mean you don’t know?” I’m like, “I didn’t come through years as a cadet.”

Robbie:
So, it was good. I got to meet a whole new cohort of people that were at that that level there. Certainly, I’ve got … I guess based on my experience, I got chosen to be the inaugural senior instructor of the leadership wing. What both of you are now explaining, the most important relationship of that a junior officer’s going to have is that with their senior NCOs or Warrant Officers. And, at the end of the day, unless you’ve been a senior NCO and warrant officer, you can’t let them know what that relationship is going to be.

Robbie:
You can give them an idea and yes, there’s an internal rank structure at Duntroon to get people used to the Lance corporal, Corporal, Sergeant, Warrant Officer way of doing stuff in the army because, obviously, Duntroon’s a very army specific leadership institution. And, certainly, when the cadets found out I was a … What’d you call it? Not a retrader.

Dane:
Mixed blood?

Robbie:
An ex-blood. Okay.

Dan:
Mixed. Mixed blood.

Robbie:
Oh, mixed blood. When they found out I commissioned across, they just knew … they came to me straight away and went, “Ah, sir. Now, we can tell why you are different.” And I just knew. I said, “Look, I’m not better or worse than any other captain instructors here. There are some awesome guys and girls that have got some amazing experiences they’ll pass on. I’m just different. I just come from a different background. And at the end of the day, I can pass on experiences to you that you won’t get from anyone else.” Because, obviously, I was the only ex-Sergeant at Duntroon at the time, so that was really cool.

Dan:
I’m curious to know, because oftentimes during promotion ceremonies, when people are getting made up from Private to Lance corporal or up to Bombardier or whatever the rank might be. Often, it’s spoken about junior NCOs being one of the best ranks in the military. So, tell us about your experience because you’ve been a junior NCO, but you’ve, obviously, moved on from there. Where would you rank your time as a bomber out of all your time in the military?

Robbie:
Oh, mate, I loved it. I’ll tell a little five minute story. We’ll finish up. It’s actually funny because one of the things I wanted to pass on is that there was a real junction in my career. Very, very, very few people know about this. I almost went one way, but I ended up getting to the point that would set a tone I’m at now.

Robbie:
I loved being … At the end of ’95, I did my power course. So, when 1 Brigade got the word to go to Darwin, I was like, “Fuck. I’m not going to Darwin. I love it here in Sydney. I’ll go jump out of planes.” So, I went and did my power in 1995. And then, I just went across the fence and went to A Battery instead. I got to stay in Sydney and I loved it there.

Robbie:
I guess being a junior NCO, you do have that extra level of responsibility, that extra level of leadership, et cetera, et cetera. But, the main opportunity I got was that when I went to be a forward observer, my FO went and did his essay selection course. So, I had to step up and be the FO, which is a captain equivalent, of that team for the whole year. So, I got more exposed to joint for power, more exposure to leadership, more … lots more responsibility as far as that goes. And the Battery Commanders, at the time, were treating me like I was a captain, even though I was only a first year junior in CR and I loved it. It was fucking awesome. I really, really enjoyed that part of it.

Robbie:
Like I said, I was fit as at this stage. Walking around … I got pulled over by the cops one night because I was walking around with a pack on my back, out the back of Ingleburn when I was living with my wife, at the time, with a big bloody steel rod, the fake weapons that people use. I got pulled over because someone reported me because they thought someone was walking around with a bloody rifle in the burbs. I’m like, “No, mate. I’m in the army. I’m just bloody training for these courses.”

Robbie:
I was really, really good mates with the guys in the gym. You know Leroy [inaudible 00:55:23]. There was a PDIs course coming up and they were going to run the PDIs course, and there was a huge demand for PDIs at that time. Service was overwhelmed. They were going to run the PDI course at Holsworthy. I was best mates with all the PDIs. I was like, “Fuck, I’m going to put my transfer in to go to bloody PDI instead.” There’s no fucking doubt about it. I would’ve got on that call. I would have become a PDI.

Robbie:
We came up … come up here to Brisbane and we had to fly up in a C130. We were doing some J-Tech work up here with F1 11s, and we had an afternoon off. Me and some other boys were like, “Fuck this. Let’s go into bloody Brisbane … into Brisbane.” So, we went into bloody Brisbane, Queen Street Mall. Time started to get away from us. We hopped in a cab and we got back to Amberley late. The fucking C130 was burning and turning on the tarmac. We’re literally doing the hairy [tuto 00:56:12]. Fucking running across the tarmac, trying to bloody catch this skid back to Sydney. We jumped on the plane and my BC was like … just gave me a death stare. If I can beat timeline, knew I was in the shit.

Robbie:
Got back to bloody Holsworthy. Sure enough. Next day, bang on the bloody mat … because I was captain coach of the footie team and this guy was a good mate of mine on the footie field. Still a really great mentor of mine right now. He pulled me aside. He’s like, “That was fucking unacceptable. You’ve ruined our reputation. We were in front of the RAAF.” Boom, boom, boom, boom. “Guess what? You’re being pulled off that PDIs course. You’re not going to be a PDI. I’m fucking canning it right now. Exercise swift eagles, leaves in two weeks. Pack your shit. You’re leaving to go that way.”

Robbie:
And I never ever, ever bloody turned back. So, I was on the train to be a PDI one day and I actually got pulled off that because of an indiscretion. And you know what? I was pissed off. I was angry. I had destructive behavior. I had to get pulled in again. He’s like, “Don’t go down this path. I’ll fucking throw you in jail if you don’t pull your head in and cop it on the chin. You fucked up. You’re the one that’s got to wear the responsibility. I don’t give a fuck that you don’t want to be a … you’re not going to be a PDI anymore. You’re going to fucking Townsville. See you later.

Robbie:
So, yeah. That was a really, really junction point in my life. And then, we’ll carry on the rest of the story in another episode. All right. Thanks Dane. Thanks Dan. Thanks Tammy.

Tamara:
Hope all our civilian friends were able to keep up with the amount of acronyms in that one. You guys are throwing them left, right, and center.

Dan:
I didn’t even realize.

Robbie:
Me either.

Tamara:
Yeah.

Robbie:
Clarity and brevity. You’ll get used to it.

Tamara:
Quite a few times, I was like, “Don’t know what that means,” but I still was able to keep up with this story. So, I’m sure everyone else will.

Robbie:
Did you guys enjoy that one?

Dan:
Yes. Very good.

Robbie:
You guys enjoyed it? Awesome. Thanks, Tammy. All right.

Tamara:
Thanks.

Dan:
[inaudible 00:57:50].

Robbie:
See you soon.

Dan:
Yeah.

Robbie:
Bye.