Axons Unleashed Podcast: Turn Left Into The Officers Mess
Welcome to another great episode of Axons Unleashed!
Join us as we continue on from last week’s episode, where we found ourselves smack-bang in the middle of Robbie’s military career as he begins to take his final steps towards becoming an officer. This week he recounts more of his time in the Military with fellow commissioned officer Dane & the GM of Axon, Tamara, all that and more on this week’s episode of Axons Unleashed.
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Speaker 1: Axons Unleashed. Robbie: Good day, everyone. My name's Robbie, I'm joined with Dan. I've got Dane back in the house and I've also got Tamara here as well. Welcome to another version of Axons Unleashed. Morning, all! Dane: Here we are. Dan: Here we are once again. Good to be back, team. Robbie: Yes, mate. You missed us last week, but Dane and I wereith drawing off a lot about going through recruit training and et cetera, et cetera, but now we're going to talk about my career as an officer. It's very apt that you're back in the house. Tamara: You'll have to listen back and here the adventures. It wasn't quite as funny as a Dane's recruit school, but it was pretty good. Robbie: I've matured. Dan: I thought I was going to have to apologize to our listeners and be like, I'm sorry you had to listen to those two carry on for the last week. Tamara: Well, you can. [crosstalk 00:00:55]. Robbie: Plenty more where that came from, plenty more where that came from. Hey, so everyone will be really, really happy to hear that this is the last time you have to hear about my career in the military. I guess we're at that final stage now whereby I've finished off the last session. Sergeant rank off, captain rank on. Left turn into the officer's mess, away you go. It was really cool. Dan: Back in the bad old days, mate, where you could go from being a snake straight across to captain. Obviously, these days you need to be a bit more senior in our ranks, before you can chop across to captain. Robbie: Yeah, it's good. Isn't it? I was like, there was no fucking way I was going to do it if I got busted back to... Not busted back. If I got commissioned to lieutenant and had to go through Duntroon, I'll be like, fuck that. No, no, no. Dan: Hey. You would have been all the better off for it too, by the way. Your years as a good young lieutenant are some of the formative best times of your life. Robbie: No doubt. Yes, yes and yes. Certainly when I did commission, I was able to join a whole new cohort of people and I could see they had very strong bonds because they all met each other either at ADFA or at Duntroon and went through those real formative years, but I came in on the side, I suppose, which was good and bad- Dan: Super sub. Robbie: Yeah. Literally super sub. I like it. Robbie: So interestingly, I got commissioned in April, 2003 and then basically deployed three months later. Boom, Solomon Islands kicked off and we had to go over there with the [inaudible 00:02:19] group. It was really weird to be a senior NCO one minute and then bang, over there as Captain Robbie. One of the things I remember is that, and Dane, you probably remember this as well. When you see a warrant officer, you brace up, you're like, "Morning, sir." I used to do that still. He's like, "No, sir, you call me sir now. I don't call you sir anymore." It was a funny, weird little thing to go through. Dane: You do it almost out of fear of the start and now it just takes a while to get out of your system. Tamara: You were telling people to call cadets [crosstalk 00:02:49]. Dan: Throw him the bone, and then laugh at [crosstalk 00:02:52]. He's such a fool. Robbie: One of the first things, there's a little FOB down at the southern part of the [weather 00:03:00] coast that needed to be established very, very soon. So it was, I got, "Right. Robbie, you're going to now go and be the FOB commander down there." So I had a platoon of Australian infantry, a platoon of Tongan infantry, a platoon of Fijian infantry, a whole lot of sigs and other people attached with us and medical team, et cetera. So yeah, bang. On the bloody, on the helicopters and down we go into the bloody Badlands down there, like no coalition troops have ever been there before. There's a few bloody bull feds running down around there, shooting weapons and bloody beheading people and stuff on the southern part of the weather coast there. Robbie: I remember we landed, I went down and did a helicopter [recy 00:03:39]. Landed, got off the choppers. Everyone's out in formation. The only thing I was like, "All right, let's go on just quite routine for 10 minutes, just to see what's happened." Dan: And then you were just going, "And what do I do next?" Robbie: Yeah. Pretty much. I'm like, "Uh all right, I can see there's a..." Dan: Clear! Robbie: Probably after about five minutes, I suppose we're sitting there, I got a report by one of the outer, one of the perimeters. They're like, "There's like 40, 50 guys all carrying machetes and rifles coming our way." I'm like, "You're fucking joking. This cannot fucking be happening to me. I've only just landed in country. I Only feel like I got commissioned yesterday and now we've got 40, 50 dudes walking towards the fucking perimeter. Right, fucking stand to. Let's go, boys. It's fucking on here." But luckily, they came in peace. They saw the helicopters landing. They're like, "No, no, no. We're here as a gun amnesty. We're here to hand back our weapons." I was like fucking 50 cent, five cent, 50 cent, five cent. I'm like, first bloody, first time on the ground. I'm going to be fucking shoot-'em-up match straight away. That was certainly the reports that was coming in. Dan: They heard that Robbie Turner was coming in on that helicopter, mate. They're like, "Please sir, take our weapons away." They don't want to fight with you. Robbie: I was like, thank fuck for that. Because I hadn't been to Afghanistan at this stage, right? That was the fucking real war back then. Dan: Yeah. I was going to say, I didn't realize I needed to bring my body armor today. Dane: I haven't heard that 50 cent five before. Tamara: I don't even know what it means. Dane: Your pucker's doing 50 cent, five cent, 50 cent, five cent. Dan: I was talking about it last week. Tamara: Oh! I just got it. Dan: He was shitting himself. Robbie: Yeah. Like, fuck! Tamara: Okay. I didn't think we were going there. What are we? Five minutes in? Yeah, five minutes in. There we go. Dan: How much does it go to show though, that when you go through all those processes and you've rehearsed and planned for what you've expected, you're like, "No worries. I know exactly what I'm going to do here." And you're like, boom, just fall into drills. You go and do your habits. Dan: But when you get put in a situation where you're like, "Holy shit, I've not prepared for this. I'm now a junior minted captain, I'm going into a combined force, a coalition force of dudes I've never ever met before to build a base that I've never ever done before," you're just going, "Fuck. What do I do now?" Robbie: Yeah, it was a little bit crazy there, but look, we got into FOB routine and it was really, really great hanging out with the Tongans and the Fijians because no doubt they'd catch a fucking wild pig and five minutes later, it's on the bloody spit ready to go. So we ate like kings down there because she was all rat packs back in the day. Tamara: You don't even really eat pork. What are you talking about? You're eating wild pig- Robbie: [crosstalk 00:06:11]. Yeah, I do. Tamara: He doesn't like pork belly but he fricking eats wild pig. Robbie: Yeah, it was great. I'm fucking cutting bits of cheek off and bloody feeding it to [crosstalk 00:06:17]. Fucking great. Yeah, it was good. Real good. Dan: It's all in the presentation, obviously. Tamara: Yeah, clearly. God. Robbie: Bloody wrapping it up in banana leaves and shit. Yeah, it was bloody excellent. Sure. I forgot, one of the resup birds came about two weeks later and I got the call. Came in from headquarters going, their FOB commander needs to go and marry up. There's a safe-hand parcel for one of the reset birds. I'm like, "Oh fuck, this is interesting. I've got no one bloody sending me shit. No one really knows where I am." Sure enough, I went over there and he bloody waved me over. A good mate of mine, Steve. Actually, he was flying a Iroquois chopper, he comes in and he goes, "Here you go, Hooch. That's yours, mate, see you later." I'm like, what the fuck is this big yellow envelope? Robbie: Sure enough, off the bloody chopper goes, I open it up. Bang, posting order. You're going to SOCOM. I didn't have a posting order, obviously. I got commissioned bloody a couple of months ago and now here we were September/October-ish. The posting as we speak now in the first week of September. As we know, posting orders were out. Says yeah, sure enough. I'm like, "Oh, right." It said, "Congratulations, Robbie. You've been selected. We needed you to go down there and effectively stand up the JTAC capability for SOCOM." In broad terms, there'd been a couple of officers, AA officers go down there and try command a selection that had not been successful so far. "We need to get you to go down there and spearhead that capability." Dan: Had you been applying to go and do this? Is this something that was on your radar at all? Robbie: No, not at all. Tamara: Wow. Robbie: So it was like, shit got real real fast real quick. Dan: What did you need to do then? Obviously you've got your posting order, and then what was the cycle that you had to go through now? Robbie: Yeah. The first thing that sprung to mind, I'm like, all right, this could be a few first coming our way. I was the first senior NCO in artillery to commission. Last week, Dan, you missed out, there was five other warrant officers that got to do it and they were like the creme de la creme. The fucking best of the best. When I very first met them, when I joined back in 1990, these guys were like, fucking Top Gun junior NCOs, walking around fucking on cloud nine. Senior NCOs, warrant officers. I'm like, fuck, there's no way I'm going to be able to match what those guys did. Robbie: Sure enough, I bloody slipped through the cracks and found myself there and went, Fuck. Now I'm going to have to go and be the first RAA officer to try and go down there and pass a commando selection. Robbie: It was certainly something that I took very seriously very quickly, but I couldn't train whilst I was over there. Fucking eating bloody ration packs out of the back of fucking Timbuktu in the Solomon Islands wasn't conducive to that. So I was able to go back up through my chain of command. Luckily when I first got posted down to the four [inaudible 00:08:52] commander, as it was back then in January, 2004, the Rio cycle started in December so I missed that first one, so I actually did a mid-year. So it was good I had the first six months of 2004 to get my shit together really. Yeah, mate. I was a fucking man on a mission. Dan: Yeah. So what did you do when you got down there? They grabbed you out and they're like, "Hey, come down to Sydney." What was the next step for you for that first six months then? Robbie: Well, I got posted down there as the adj straightaway. So, I had fucking nobody. Tamara: Are they short staffed or something? Robbie: They were, yes. Yes. Dan: Junior captain to the Solomons. Now you're like, second year junior captain as the adjutant of- Robbie: Like fucking six months, junior captain. Yeah. Dan: As one of the more senior units, I suppose you'd say. Adjutant would normally be the most senior captain in an entire unit. You might've been able to be like, the ACC adj's handbag holder, mate, if you were lucky. Robbie: At best. I remember Brett [Jelena 00:09:51] was the OCU of Charlie company at that time when they're standing up to tag east and he'd come in there and start talking to me about stuff. I'm like, I've got no idea what this fucking guy is talking about. He goes, "Yeah, I just needed to brief the CEO on this, this, this, this. I'm looking forward to this brief. Can you just read through it? Make sure it all makes sense." I was like, fucking talk about a baptism of fire. I had zero idea how to be an adjuvant, let alone the fucking adjuvant of a unit that was rapidly growing and evolving and bringing itself up into the status that it eventually came. So yeah, that was a real bloody baptism of fire. Robbie: I guess the good news is, is that being the CEO's right-hand man, that I was able to create some really good rapport with the rest of the officers quite quickly. They knew that I was a bloody, a senior NCO changeover and yeah, the boys were certainly pulling the piss out, because they're down there as very senior captains as well. So the platoon commanders are down there as third, fourth, fifth, fucking high flying, bloody Top Gun captains in their own rights. So I was certainly surrounded by some fricking amazing people. Robbie: Good friend of mine, Garth, Tammy that's when we first met down there. Very, very grateful for the mentorship that those guys were able to provide me, which is really cool. But yeah. Robbie: Then I did selection from mid 2004 through to the end of the year, really. Fucking out of holes where they're freezing cold, fucking walking up and down [inaudible 00:11:09], et cetera, et cetera. I won't bore everyone with my bloody, with my worries, but needless to say, there were quite a few times where I'm like, "I am fucking fragged here. I'm walking around, I'm lost. I'm fucking in these boonies, I'm walking through these sticks and got bloody spiderwebs on my face at nighttime. I don't know where I'm going. I've fucking still got three days to go. Fuck it. What if I just get bitten by snake? Or what if I fall over and just fucking hurt my... Everyone's going to understand that I got injured and it won't be a discharge and it won't be a withdrawal on request. I'll come back and do it next year." Robbie: I guess that just didn't happen and I fucking somehow bloody scraped my way through and yeah, got to the end and got presented [inaudible 00:11:50], which is a really, really proud moment, actually. Tamara: Mindset shift, huh? Robbie: It was a real mindset shift. Yeah. Dan: I suppose I was going to ask is, when you were sitting there and you're going through that, obviously you hadn't quite gotten to it yet, but later on in your career you take this down to RMC. Would it have given you a really early insight then as to some of the later postings in your life? Robbie: Yeah, it was great. I certainly was able to go down to Duntroon. Dan Fortune who was the CO at the time, he goes, "Right. Robbie, you're the only SOCOM officer here. I want you to basically run Exercise Shaggy Ridge," like a little commando selection training course. Dan: You've taken that mentality where you're like, "This really sucks. I'm going to get bitten by a snake," to, "I'm running it. I'm going to recreate this and destroy people's morale and willfully." Robbie: And you say that because your wife was on it as well. Tamara: I think I've heard parts of this. Everyone sort of remembers you as that Shaggy Ridge- Robbie: Yeah. That guy. Tamara: That time was not favorable for a lot of people. Robbie: Well, when you're doing... Dane, you probably might not be aware of this, but when you do things really hard, you come out the other end a better person for it. Don't you? Dane: I'm not going to fucking even comment. I don't know. I guess. Robbie: What were some of the hardest, most challenging times you did? Either in your training or going through things where you too had that thought that came in and went, "Fuck. I need to put up my hand here and quit." Dane: Mate, probably the biggest challenge you get I guess it's short... I always talk about short term, maintenance really. I had one where we're over in Mumbai and we're at the international airport so we get to the end of the runway and then we start... Or, sitting at the end of the runway and we have a time, 8:30 to fly out and we start filing the pre-flight bit. I remember I'd had this really big night the night before, so they call them UV drips. We were with these Belgian girls. Anyway, so I'm there and I'm struggling, but I'm the only avionics engineer on board so far. Dan: By the way, we're going to go back to that story in another podcast. [crosstalk 00:13:59] it is. Robbie: That'll be a whole episode. Dane: Anyway, going up there, it probably doesn't help, but the thing is when you're there and there's like India and there's Emirates and all that sort of stuff, and they're all banking up and they're going, "Aussie 210, are you going to make your time slot? Are you going to make your time slot? You need to make this slot because you're not going to have another slot." So you have all this pressure and you're there and you're just sweating. It's not something that's just like an arduous experience, but it's very timely, like being able to take something and I guess do it as quickly as possible because if you don't, you know you're costing money. Because it costs money to sit at the airport, right? So it's thousands and thousands of dollars the longer and longer it takes. I guess there's a lot more of that problem-solving was more that I was exposed to. You can carry that into any industry, like your ability to take things and solve them. You can apply that anywhere. Dane: So I guess mine is one of the thing where, like I was told to pack march here and there. I don't want to talk about fucking pack marching or Robbie will tease me. I lined up for the pack marching at OTS and they got all the packs and they put them on a truck. I'm like, what's going on? They're like, "Oh, they're going to drive them out. We'll just walk out there." I was like, yes! This is like nothing like recruits was. This is officer retreat school. Dane: Going through those time pressures, I think was probably the biggest one because you don't have anything where you can just go, "Oh, well I can push it off. I can pull it off." People there going like, "Mate, we need this because we need to fly or else we're going to miss this and we're going to miss that," and the chain reaction. Then there's curfews at airports as well. Tamara: It's not just that, it's the safety element as well. You've got to have your head straight for [crosstalk 00:15:23] do things right. Dane: Yeah, you've just got to be in the game. Robbie: You remember what their airline environment is like anyway, Tammy, from your time at Quantas. Tamara: Yeah. Absolutely. Dane: Yeah. We probably relate a lot with that. It is that. The time stresses, because you might go, "We're going here, here and here," and then the end destination has a curfew and you need to make it by this time. So every minute that you are delaying here, the flow-on effect of that, where they turn around, "Well, sweet. You can't land at Travis air force base," so too bad so sad. Then we're like, fuck, what are we going to do? Tamara: I remember being stuck on an overnight and we'd had an engineering problem in the morning and we couldn't get back until five hours later or something and we're sitting at the airport, just waiting for a slot back in Sydney airport. So we're just waiting, waiting, waiting. Everyone's getting the shits because everyone's delayed. Dane: Yeah. That's the other thing too. When we flew over there, we're taking over all these senior RAAF officers because they wanted to go over and do a bit of a, how you go on trip where they [crosstalk 00:16:21] with the Indian air force. They go, "Well, this is-" Robbie: Sightseeing, yeah. Dane: Pretty much sightseeing, right? Robbie: Keeping up international relations. Dane: Every time I'd leave the cockpit, I ended up doing, they call it a hospit rule. Dan already knows a lot of this stuff being engineering background, but then me diagnosing the fault, ended up in the elevator up at the top and with a [C7N 00:16:39] you've got to go all the way up through the tail. I'm hung over so I'm going from the cockpit down past all these guys who have flew Caribou's and F-111s going, "Mate, have you checked..." Grey hair. I'm just like, "Shut up!" Like, trying to cruise through. Then I've got to go up the fucking ladder all the way up the top through the maintenance tunnel and out there, open the door, and it is stinking hot. India. I'm out there, just like, "Oh my God!" Hating my job at the time. But got it done and you keep going on. I think a lot more, it's the time pressures of getting something solved. Dan: I love that your story of I was really ready to give up was when you were hung over. Why didn't we bring another avionics guy? Stupid! Robbie: Doing commando selection and what you just explained then is like exactly the same. Dane: Sorry. We're trying to relate to it. Right? I love it how Robbie tries to bring me in. He goes [inaudible 00:17:35] I'm doing that. Dane, tell us. You're not used to hard work! Tell us a time where you've had to strive. I was thinking, "Fuck, is he kidding?" Tamara: He's just jigging through the hole and you're jumping right in. Dane: "I don't mind going in there." Well, Robbie, I know you're a commander, but think about this. Robbie: Actually, to be fair, as the artillery guide on the reinforcement cycle, obviously I had to go and do the JTAC course. So from my FI background, JTAC course is probably known as one of the hardest courses in the military to pass. Many, many, many people have just not got through. Dan: What do you reckon the [crosstalk 00:18:07] rate is for- Tamara: Joint tactical air? Robbie: Joint terminal attack controller. Tamara: Oh. I was close. Dane: Did you coordinate that? When you went down there, setting it all up? Robbie: I'll get to that. As I say in a weapons lesson, don't get ahead of me. Tamara: Oh! Dane: I haven't done this lesson before, so it's hard to- Robbie: This is me doing my JTAC course. So as I could be suitably qualified to do what you're asking. What did you say there? What's the hardest thing about it? Oh, the fall-over rate. Dan: Yeah, the fall-over rate's phenomenal and you don't- Robbie: 50, 60%, minimum. Dan: You don't get a re-go at it, do you? Robbie: I can't remember. I think depending on the reason for the failure, like if it was a safety issue, then you're out straight away. Dan: 50, 60% fall over. Robbie: Yeah. So we're talking about time and fuel and resource, like fucking flying a jet from UE out to Singo just to go and do the buddy bombing runs. If you don't get that right, you've fucking wasted an hour and a half worth of bloody F-18 fuel. It's the most expensive course a ground guy can attend. It's got a really, really high failure rate, but it's a super, super important one as well. Dan: If you think about our previous or most recent wars, there's a lot of people that are required to control the air assets that are operating over there. Robbie: Yeah. Fuck yeah. So, that was my first introduction to air power, even though I'd been in [FOAC 00:19:23] before, artillery, and some of the captain FOs were JTAC qualified and I'm seeing them coordinated all before. It's like playing a big reality, bloody video game, which was fucking cool. I was really, really keen to go down there and get it done. Robbie: Yeah. When you're actually doing it, it's pretty fucking nerve-wracking and obviously you've got wing commanders over, standing over the top of you and stuff, bloody assessing every thing you say and do. Dane: They've got nothing else to do. I love how you say air powers. Oh, fuck. Anyway. Robbie: [crosstalk 00:19:55] you guys. Dane: When you said air power, I'd like to be used a bit more around axon. [crosstalk 00:19:58]. Robbie: Air power. Yeah. Dane: That's the way I operated. [crosstalk 00:20:04]. Dan: That's how you're going to refer to Dane. Your air power. Tamara: What does the admin and marketing team referred to? Dan: Support flight. Tamara: Support flight. [crosstalk 00:20:08]. Let's go see support flight. Dan: The JTAC capability was like, that's fully owned by the RAAF. Is that correct? Robbie: From an air perspective... So there's air-land integration. You got the guys on the ground in the army, and then you've got obviously the planes in the sky. And then there's the air-land integration wing to bring those two together. Down the track I'll talk to you about how I was able to then integrate the raising of 4 Squadron RAAF and bring them into SOCOM, because they started to have their own combat controllers down the track, but that didn't exist back in the day. Dan: Yeah, so there was nothing inside the SOCOM world at that point in time to be able to provide that capability. Robbie: It was army dudes talking to air force jets. That's it. Dane: I'll be looking forward to when we get to that stage. I'm getting ahead of you, [crosstalk 00:20:56], but talking about 4 Squadron going in because I also met a fair few of those guys and they always seemed... I always say, "Oh, you can tell a CSG," or they're more army than RAAF, but having that capability. Looking forward to- Robbie: Yeah, mate. From what I see on the very, very limited exposure that I get now, they've come along in leaps and bounds, like doing free-fall courses and shit. So they're fully spec'd up operators and they're very, very highly skilled, bloody JTACs as well that have lived and breathe air power since they joined. Dane: Cool. Robbie: I guess that's one of the things about doing the JTAC course, is that 3D spatial awareness. It's a very two-dimensional landscape, like you're here, you're over there or you've got to move from here to there. Fucking someone's shooting at you on a flat plane. There's no vertical aspect to it. So just to get your head around that and directing jets around the airspace that are flying at fucking couple of kilometers every few seconds. Shit happens very, very quickly. So that's the whole thing about concurrent activity. I already tell them concurrent activity is the number one thing. If you can do multiple things at one time in the same period of time, you get so much more done. Tamara: I don't know how you could multitask that well, when you can't do that at home. Dane: Ah, got him! [crosstalk 00:22:18]. Oh, the applause one. [crosstalk 00:22:20] this morning our concurrent activity, Dan, I was like, "Mate, how good is it?" [crosstalk 00:22:25] looked at me going, "Why are we talking at 7:00 AM about this?" Dan: I had just dropped James off daycare and I get this phone call from Dane. I'm like, "Hey man, are you okay?" Tamara: He missed you. Dan: Is this Earth flat or what's going on? Robbie: It was nice out /today. Dan: There's lots of whitewater out there. I did say that actually. [crosstalk 00:22:42]. Robbie: Tammy and I walking down, she's like, "Oh, Dan's already Dan doing a one-on-one with Jane." I'm like, "Oh, maybe I'll do a one-on-one with someone." She's like, "Do you do a one-on-one with Dan?" I'm like, nearly fucking every two hours. We're constantly [crosstalk 00:22:55]. Well, you and I used to do it back in the day. Dan: I don't speak to Robbie anymore. I only speak to Dane these days. It used to be like hours on the phone. Robbie: So it was good. Doing my Rio cycle at the end, the selection was really cool. Lots of new skills. Roping course, amphib course, heavy weapons course. Already done my power course. Urban ops course, et cetera, et cetera. It was really, really cool to get all those skills under the belt. That was the remainder of 2004 and the first little part of 2005. Robbie: Then of course, 9/11 had come and gone and then certainly the Australians' involvement of that started to ramp up even more, so SOTG in its current form... Well, the previous form, how it finished up, what'd they do? 25 rotations or something. In August, 2005, SOTG 1 got stood up and Alpha company or [4AR 00:23:47], bang you're off and away you go. So I was the platoon level JTAC to make that happen. So boom, over we go. Robbie: The RAAF didn't have C-17s back then so we had to catch a US Air Force C-17 from Pearce over in Perth and then fly that way. They're like, "Right. We're going to do a bloody attack descent into this place called Tarin Kowt." There was a US Special Forces, a troop operating there, but there was nothing at TK. Robbie: They're like, "Right. Make sure you strap everything down. This tactical descent's like bloody flying through space." We're like, fucking whatever. No worries, mate. Yep. Fucking [inaudible 00:24:22] Johno. Sure enough, fucking down she goes. We're being lifted up out of our seats, shit's floating around in the sky like you see in the space shuttle there. It was a real zero G environment. Full tactical descent into bloody TK. No bitumen runway or anything back then. Robbie: Down comes the fucking ramp and then fucking open. I see the Afghan bloody landscape for the very first time. Well, we were the first boots on the ground, really from a task group perspective. There were some other discreet people over there for quite a few years before that. Fuck, mate. I've never been to the moon but I'm like, fuck, this looks like the moon. There's shale everywhere. Massive mountains. Fucking, just shit. Dan: I was going to say, because those of you who have been there, you're probably just imagining now the TK runway and you look out and you feel like you're just in a bowl. Robbie: Yeah. Dan: Those big mountains, the whole way around you. You guys would have just been looking up going, "Holy shit. This is not a very safe place to be within target's range." Robbie: Correct. People can fucking see us from miles away. So yeah, it was interesting to get there. There was nothing set up. All sleeping in tents for the first couple of months. There's no fucking shelters built, getting fucking rocketed and bombed every night. Like, it's not a very nice feeling when you're fucking laying there in your fucking tent. Then every couple of nights the siren go off. They eventually got a weapon-locating radar there from the US to come in to fucking provide some fucking force protection and we're all huddling in there, these little fucking- Dan: Little T bunkers. Robbie: It was fucked. It was fucked, a lot. But it was good. Good to go over there and bloody get that first rotation under our belt and just be out there. It wasn't the fucking full-on badlands that it certainly turned into but yeah, certainly as the coalition forces got more and more there, more and more stuff started to happen. Robbie: When did I come back? So that was August, 2005 through to about January, February, 2006. Back to Australia, obviously rotations two, three, and four, then piled in over there afterwards. Interestingly, I got posted back to Duntroon straightaway. So it's almost like I started my Afghan trips, three of them, and got posted immediately before or immediately after every single time. This is how it worked, right? So it was a very tumultuous six or seven years as far as that goes. Probably longer, to be fair. Robbie: I got back in a February, 2006. Hang on a fucking second. Where did I go? Oh, Australia and bloody Duntroon. Here's another bit of a baptism of fire. I'd never worked in an environment where there's bloody civilian females in the workforce. When you come from a unit of fucking 700 dudes and probably 10 chicks back then, I understand there's quite a few more in the unit now, which is good. Tamara: [crosstalk 00:27:07]. Robbie: Sure thing. I was then the staff officer, the commandant down at headquarters RMCA. Brigadier Appleton was the commandant and he was the fucking old and bold from way back and here's this fucking young buck who's just come back from the first rotation of Afghanistan. If I had no idea on how to be an engineer back in the day, I had fucking certainly no idea on how to be a staff officer, to someone who is very old school and very set in his ways. Robbie: Thankfully I had an awesome DMA down there and also a chief of staff down there which kept my life sane, but yeah, it was good to be down at Duntroon. It was funny. I was walking around as a captain down there. What was I? Second, third-year captain now. I'm like, "Hey, where's the Q store? Where's the ROP? Where's the orderly room?" People are like, "What do you mean you don't know?" I'm like, "I didn't come through here as a cadet, I've never been here before." So it was a very weird environment. It gave me a great appreciation. I spent the rest of that year working there and then came over the hill per se and I was a the enior instructor for the leadership wing there. That's when Dan, they got me to run the Shaggy Ridge stuff there. Robbie: I loved being a recruit instructor down at Kapooka, but I loved being a leadership instructor at Duntroon even more. It was bloody phenomenal just to have that influence on people, be that guy from a leadership perspective, because at the end of the day you would all agree, those people from a military background listening, the most important relationship that a young officer has is that with his or her senior NCOs. Having been a senior NCO for four years, I could go down there and I guess I was just a little bit different. Robbie: As soon as some of the cadets found out that I was a senior NCO changeover, whoom, they just gravitated across to me, go, "Tell me about this, tell me about this. What do I do in this sort of situation?" Certainly they were able to go, "Now we understand sir why you're a bit different. You're not like the other captains that are here." I'm like, "Look, I'm no better or worse than any other captains here. I just come from a different background." So it was really cool to be down there. Dan: And you were just different. Dane: A lot different- Robbie: You were there as a cadet so you would've seen that side of me as well. Dan: Yeah. When you still speak to people who were there at the time and they obviously all remember, but even like the smaller courses that came through, they'd be like, "Yeah. Was that that guy that was really, really intense and passionate about everything that he spoke about?" I'm like, yeah, that's him. Tamara: Still is. Dan: Still is. Still the same guy. I don't know where that got bred into him, but it didn't disappear. Put it that way. Tamara: I don't know either, actually. Robbie: I don't know either. If I find something I like, I fucking love it. And if I'm not very good at something, I don't do that. I just don't. My brain is already full. I don't take on information if it's not going to be useful for me because if it's something in, it's something out. Dane: Something has to go out for me to remember this. Was Dan one of the cadets that gravitated towards you? Robbie: Nah, he's an engineering background, mate. No. Dan: RT, I don't think we really got to know each other until I was posted up to Darwin maybe two or three years later and you'd be occasionally coming up there and pitch blacks and all those sort of activities would be on. There may or may not have been a couple of cheeky nights at Monsoons for those of you who [crosstalk 00:30:14] that resulted in you sleeping on our foldout couch, which was always bloody fun, mate. Robbie: Yeah. The closest relationships I've got with the cadets down there were the ones I played footy with because the instructors and the cadets down there would play footy together on the weekends and stuff. So you formed that extra little bond down there. Look, I'm really, really proud to know that I've got dozens and dozens of friends on Facebook and people I catch up with and check your little messages every now and then. Many of them are turned into clients of ours now so we're helping them build their property portfolios. Yeah. Make lifelong friends down there. Robbie: Certainly similar to being an RI, you're working in their all core environment, so then there's a whole new bunch of peers from a cohort perspective. I'm down there with engineer captains and Armoured Corps captains and Intelligence Corps captains, et cetera, et cetera. It was a really, really great environment. Certainly, you really expand your peer group down there a lot. Tamara: Did you and Dane ever cross paths, or close to? Was there any- Dane: He's not allowed on our bases. Tamara: Restricted. Robbie: You only fucking served in Amberley. Dane: Yeah. Robbie: I did go up to Amberley a few times when the F-111s were up there. When we used to go out the back there and do some dry runs from a JTAC perspective. But yeah. Tamara: So you might have been on base at the same time? Robbie: Yeah. Maybe. Dane: Everything is going there, like all the squadrons and stuff, all the flier squadrons anyway. It's funny when you're talking about doing a tactical landing. We do that like touch and go's, right? So you'd be flying along. I was laughing when you told me that before. They don't say anything and then they just go like, duf. And it feels like you're suspending and then you just go like, oh God. I'm going like, "What did you have for lunch?" [crosstalk 00:31:56]. Dane: They have like a loadmaster selection course and we used to sit on the jet with them, so you get all these guys and they're Navy and Army and stuff, they come and they're like, "We want to be a loadmaster." They did this flight at the end of it on the Friday morning for two hours and they go, "All right, guys." They get on. Everyone sits looking that way directly at each other as they sit on the [crosstalk 00:32:13]. Tamara: Inwards. Dane: They fly me out and they go, "What we're going to do is we'll take off, we're going to shoot out over the ocean and we'll throw it around a bit. What do you recommend?" I was like, "Yeah!" All these people who've never sit in planes. Anyway. So we're going across- Tamara: They're thinking they're on a Qantas jet. Dane: Yeah. So I've got this Navy guy [inaudible 00:32:25] and he's sitting across from me. I'm not there trying to get selected or anything. I've just got to be on the jet for any air issues. So, flying along. I was talking to him as we're walking on the plane and he's like, "Oh mate, just so keen. I can get in the Navy here." I'm like, "Well, this will show you if you're keen or not." Right? I said, "Did you have any travel car?" He's like, "What's that?" I go, "You'll find. What'd you have for breakfast?" He goes, "Oh mate, how good is the mess at Amberley? Bacon and eggs." He's crapping on it. Had some oatmeal. I was like, oh God. Dane: [crosstalk 00:32:51] sitting across from me and we're flying along and they just start banking it real hard. Boom, boom, boom. The plane, it's just like the travelator, like that ride. It's going up and down and so it pushes really hard on you and then brings you suspended. Dane: My mates next to me go, "Shit. That Navy guy doesn't look very good." He's going, whoa! And then he's starting to grab the sick bag off the wall. Ohh! I'm like, he's not going to make that. He goes dooh, and he pukes on himself and he grabs the bag and then we start banking up. I'm like, oh God, he's going to be like high up and he's looking at me, with the smell. By the time we landed, all these Navy dudes and Army guys trudge off the back, like, "Oh!" They puke. We're just like, yep, that'll sort them out. Dane: [crosstalk 00:33:33] comes up to me and he goes, "So we'll probably get about two of them I reckon out of all that." Robbie: For those watching the YouTube clip, that was fucking funny. Tamara: How did you go with all that? Dane: Oh, I took tablets, dude. Tamara: Oh, you knew. Robbie: Drugs, drugs, drugs. Dane: Drugs, drugs, drugs. Travel car. I'm like, mate, it's the Friday flip. We've got to get on the travel car. You get people out there and G just... You can see the pilots just love it because always what you're supposed to do is look at the horizontal line that's like a white line, because the center of the jet is still centralized. Right? It's just the sides that are going like that. So the parts [crosstalk 00:34:02] pretty good. Robbie: The [your 00:34:02], as it's called. Dane: Yeah. Yeah. Robbie: Man! Dane: Yeah. But they're obviously not in tune so they're getting flicked up big time and it's just a bloodbath. Robbie: The reason why I know that is that when we did our JTAC course, they put us in the back of a Hawk. So no training, no gravitron training and fucking you're in the back of a little jet. Proper jet trainer, and yeah, we did 90 minute. The course got split in two. Guys were calling in low-level passes for 90 minutes and I'm in the fucking back and it gave you a real appreciation about what the [pols 00:34:39] have to go through. I was so much of a better JTAC having gone through it, but I was... It was the worst experience in my life. I was like, get me the fuck out of here. It was fucked. Dane: It's like your body too. It's the weird push on your body all the time. Robbie: Really bad. Tamara: Can we sensor that last... Robbie: Yeah, I was not good. Not good. Like, you're in your fucking G suit. Yeah, it was... Tamara: Stop saying that? Dane: Sorry. Sorry. Anyway, back on the- Tamara: So you were no good. Robbie: I was no good at all. I was [crosstalk 00:35:10] buggered up. Tamara: Were you vomiting? Robbie: Yeah. Fucking oath. So we go down to a low-level pass and then egress back out to the next CP. Up like 10, 12,000, and I didn't even have a mask on, I was trying to fucking breathe. [inaudible 00:35:24] see in the revision mirror. He goes, "Hey man, put your mask back on. There's not much oxygen up here." I'm like, "I can't fucking breathe, mate." Dane: You're like, shut up, I'm trying to breathe back here! Robbie: He goes, "We can't land. We've got to keep doing this [inaudible 00:35:35]." It was like, too bad. Fucking hang on. This is going to hurt. And it did. Fucking sure enough, there'd be another one coming and zoom, down we go again and fucking up and down. I'm like, ugghh! It was fucked. Dane: It's so different to a seasickness. Seasickness, it's real lappy sometimes and it's that motion. But this is like a different type. Robbie: Don't ever do that in front of me again. Dane: It's very slow. That's my European move. That's all. [crosstalk 00:36:03]. Tamara: Oh man. Dan: Oh, jesus. Dane: Anyway, continue. Sorry, Robbie. Robbie: Oh, this is fucking gold. If you are listening to this on podcast, go and find it on fucking YouTube. [crosstalk 00:36:13] shit going. Yeah. It's in, mate. It's happening. The European move. Tamara: The amount of editing I'm going to have to ask Dubs to do for this [crosstalk 00:36:20]. My god. Robbie: Hey, so then finished my time at Duntroon. I got promoted to Major at the end of 2008, which was really, really cool. Mum and my auntie and uncle and everything come over there to see a young boy who fucking joined the army as a digger, then get promoted to Major in the RMC in the officer's mess. It was a great event. Very, very proud. You have family, I was bloody stoked. Sure as shit, no dramas. Righto, you finished that posting, back to Afghan. So back to Afghanistan I went in December, 2008, went over there with, I think it's rotation nine or 10 or something like that, eight or nine. Robbie: I was over there working for the CEO as his plans officer. It's all about understanding strategic battle space, synchronizing assets. Basically being that J5 or S5 planes guy. Not what's happening in the next six weeks. What's happening in the next three to six months. That was really, really good to get my head in the game there. Robbie: It's funny. When you go or came out of an operational environment into a training environment, straight back into an operational environment again, having spent no time in the unit, so I was a little bit dislocated there from a capability progression perspective, but sure as shit, after six weeks of being in theater, you come up to speed pretty quickly and you learn what's going on there. Robbie: I loved being in headquarters. It was good. That's where I met [Damo 00:37:47] over there, actually. It was good to to meet Damo over there. He was working in Kandahar at the same time. One of the highlights we had over there as well was the ceremony where 4AR commando got dropped and two commando regiment came into play. For real. Obviously that's six, Dan, now. That was good to be over there on an operational footing to make all that happen, which was really cool. Robbie: I got back to two commando, when was that? Mid 2009, and then they didn't have an OC slot for me to go into straight away so I was the XO for the last six months of that year. That was good to be working side by side with the CO, just to understand from a admin log capability, manning, tarp fucking stuff that needs to all go on [crosstalk 00:38:39] shuddering. We had the OPSO, we had the S3, the S7, the S5, that senior level Major, I guess, work. Senior-level Majors in the unit working together was really good. Robbie: Then the following year, when I dropped in to be an OC, to then be reporting to the XO that I did the year before, it was good for me to have an understanding about the key priorities about [crosstalk 00:39:03]. Dan: Yeah. You probably had an understanding of the outcomes the XO was trying to achieve as well because you sort of led that groundwork the year before. Robbie: Yeah. Dan: So you go on, "I actually understand what the XO is trying to get out of me here." Not just, "I assume I know what's going to go on here." Robbie: Yeah. So even though I was fucked at the time, I felt like I was thrown in the deep end quite a few times throughout my career, but you get to... Well, you've got no choice, have you? You've got to fucking just pony up there and get it done. Robbie: Then when I was the OC Op Support company, what are we talking there? 2010 and halfway through 2011. The span of command was massive because I had the CT wing, I had the snipers, I had the mortars, had the amphib wing, had the JTACs underneath me, et cetera, et cetera. I had all these bloody senior sergeants and warrant officers coming in and giving me all these briefs about all this capability for the... I then put the meat on the bones to give us a sync brief, sometimes all the way up to SOCOM and Chief of Army to change a particular part of a doctrine or whatever, and I didn't really fucking know what I was looking at because I'm not the SME in fucking vehicle man or bloody operations or CT stuff. Again, it was a very challenging year and something that needed a lot of my attention to get through there and it wasn't just a bloody flash in the pan per se. Robbie: One of the things I had to do... This was the time whereby there's a few few rumblings where Chief of Air Force was talking to Chief of Army going, "Hey. We've got bloody JTACs bouncing in and out of Afghanistan, but we've got heaps of bloody Army JTACs that can't pass the JTAC course." I've got a heap of bloody smart effectively adjies, I suppose, I think that was where that was first spawned anyway. The RAAF SAS are like, "Oy, let's us bloody go and be a JTAC." Robbie: It was challenging at first from a cultural perspective, of course. Certainly now when I'm talking to all of our clients, I'm like, "Look, I did so much time with the RAAF and I really, really appreciate, not just hanging out with air combat group with the guys flying the jets, but all the air mobility group to get people to and from." Did a few trips across to Red Flag in Vegas, went up to Alaska as well for another Red Flag up there and just got to hang out with RAAFies a lot. It's certainly their professionalism, their AAR culture, their excellence as far... To be a fucking pilot flying a jet, no small feat, right? So from a special forces and pilot perspective, we all got on very, very well. Robbie: One of their cultures there that they do very, very well and it's something I've certainly brought into here is the AAR culture, the hot-wash culture. Like, if something's not going well, "Right. Let's all get together. Leave your rank and your ego and fucking everything else at the door and let's not blame anyone, but let's just try and find out what's going on." That whole sustain... Dan: Fix, improve. Robbie: Fix, improve. Thanks Dan, about how it all works there. So that was really, really good to be involved in. I'll say to our clients now, I'm a [inaudible 00:42:00] army bloke through and through 100%, but I've got a lot of light blue that runs through my veins as well. Have you heard many blokes, Dane, speak of the Air Force so favorably? What was your impression of the army? Going back 180, what was your impression of the army back in the days? Dane: I heard a saying, which was something about, in the Army we say you do, in the Air Force we say you think, in the Navy we say you relax, because they don't do anything. I remember thinking that, but one thing is I guess, like I said about Robbie when I first met him, "Man, this guy just oozes the Army to me. Everything that I see in the Army just oozes from this bloke." Robbie: This was me. I'd been out fucking seven years when you met me. Dane: I know, and you were still in that sphere to me. Is this guy still in? Nah. I guess it's just a different mentality. I get the culture side to it. You have situations where you just need people to follow the direction that's being given. Dane: I find it always funny when I meet people who do maintenance stuff on choppers in the army, because I'm always like, well, how does that fit with you guys? They go, "Well, I'm a technician first, soldier second." I always hear you're a soldier first, then it's your category second or your mustering. How do you find that? Because obviously, they talk about people just taking direct orders and what happened with the Seahawk and everything like that. They didn't want to foster that. It was like that bottom-up innovation I was chatting to you about the other day. Dane: Like you said before, everyone's supposed to just, where you have these fishbowl moments where you sit and everyone can just talk. Right? Which is massive in the RAAF because in the end, everything that we do is moving forward to make sure that the one person at the front of that plane can do their job. Tamara: Yeah. Dane: Like when we're getting people ready to fly into Afghanistan, we're putting all the ballistic matting there, all that sort of stuff. Everyone's collective effort is to make sure that the jet and the pilot will be in the best position to do what they... It's like all accumulating to do that. Robbie: Fucking well said. I like that. Dane: No, it is. It is. Everything that goes into it is to make sure they can do that. Obviously, we need them to be able to perform because they need to be able to go and compliment the Army and what the Army are trying to achieve. We don't want to have a thing where the Air Forces come and do their thing and then fuck off or anything like that. We don't want to operate separately. Like, how do we fit in? Obviously. Robbie would have been at the top of the tier over on the other side saying like, this is the capability we need from them to optimize us. So I think it's a different thing where I just wasn't exposed to it, Robbie, like that. That thing. I had the little sprinkling when we laugh about it, when I went through recruits and stuff, but going through and doing the category, I didn't have that. Dane: You had an apprenticeship trade thing. People didn't call me by rank. They called me by nicknames. I called someone a flight sergeant my first day and he's like, "Don't ever call me that again." Tamara: What was your nickname? Dane: It's Maca. Tamara: What was your nickname? Come on, you're throwing yourself in- Dane: Oh, there was plenty. Robbie: Roachy? Dane: Yeah. That's a standard. [Ferrero 00:44:49]. Tamara: Oh! Dane: There was a few. Shit, edit that out. Tamara: Ferrero. Dane: Yeah. Ferrero Rocher. Robbie: Now you're going to know [crosstalk 00:44:55]. Dane: It was just a different environment, I guess, for that. It all comes down to, the biggest thing is your capability. Timings. Timing, timing, timing. We were having a bit of a joke the last session, Tammy, you would have laughed. We're talking about going through and doing an officer selection board. Ronnie and I. I was saying they get up, they've got at least five guys and they're like, "Hey, mate. You go through, you've got two minutes." This guy didn't even get out of high school pretty much and they told him to sit down. It's very much, they're trying to make sure that what we have, the confines that we have, you can operate in them and do that. So I think it's just different. I just wasn't exposed to that. Robbie: Joint nature. Dan, you did some trips away where you were at that formation level headquarters planning in Kabul and Iraq. Yeah? Dan: Yeah. Kabul was at the national strategic headquarters, I suppose, in Afghanistan. Then followed on with a trip over to Kuwait. So, embedded within the US forces when we were doing the truest form, I think I found, of actual operational level headquarters. I almost don't think I got it until I was sitting at a three-star headquarters of what actual operational level headquarters is. Sure. Dan: Aussies, it's almost like Australians can't do it. The equivalent force that we were talking about over there was uplifting the Australian defense force into theater at one time. Then when you're actually thinking about deploying that entire Australian defense force in a theater at one time, you're like, "Oh shit, this actually takes some planning [crosstalk 00:46:23]." Robbie: Real scale. Dan: Real scale. When you're talking about the ability to just switch on an extra thousand troops over a one-week period, that's not something the Australian defense force can necessarily do. Like, you've got a single shot capability of that in the OT army. So, you'd be able to do that. Dan: Week one, switch on another thousand. Week two, switch on another thousand. The next thing you know, where you've got an extra 50,000 people in the theater. So it was a very different experience when you actually get to that higher level headquarters. When you've got all the tools at your disposal as well. That's probably one of the similarities that you found, is that being in the SOCOM world, it wasn't like, "No, you can't have that toy." It was, you can demonstrate your need or your capability to get that toy and then therefore you got it. It's the same thing in an operational level headquarters. You're like, "I can demonstrate to you why I need that capability, why I need those people, why I need that cash, why I need the local coalition forces to be on the ground doing that particular activity in that synchronized moment." As long as you can get all those things into alignment, it all just starts to come together seamlessly and everyone starts to work together, as you were talking about Dane, because you can see the effect that people are trying to achieve holistically. Tamara: Now I know how you guys justify all your purchase orders through the business. You're like, "I need this toy." Dan: No, you buy it and then you come up with a solution as to why- Dane: You demonstrate the need. Tamara: I know Daniel, our videographer is currently like, "Hmm, I'm learning." Robbie: I'm all for in the army corps, a spirit de corps. You've got your true competition, your squadron competition, your unit competition, your brigade competition. But when you all need to bloody get your heads together, all that goes out the window, especially when you're in a formational level headquarters or a decent level headquarters. You can't have those little rivalries there. Otherwise people just will say no out of fucking spite just to have that competition there. Robbie: I guess you are forced to display teamwork at the supreme levels to get shit done. Otherwise, nothing's going to get done. Because yeah, as the Army, we don't fucking have planes. A secondhand plane ride is better than a first-class walk. There's no doubt about that. Robbie: So yeah, I loved being a OC ops support company. It was really cool to have all those different activities under my belt there. Sure as shit, finished my posting there, back to Afghanistan, bang straight away. It was April, 2011 I went back over there. You and I were actually starting to hang out a little bit back then, Tam, weren't we? Tamara: Yeah. We met in 2009. Yeah. Robbie: Bouncing in and out of each other's life live for a little while. I remember, it wasn't heartbreaking for me at the time and I'm not banging my chest here. When I said that Tamara, I said, "I'm going back to Afghanistan and so therefore we're not together anymore. I don't want to have a girlfriend whilst I'm over there. I don't want to have that responsibility." I've seen guys' fucking heads explode over there when things are not going well with their partners back in Australia. I just didn't. I was going over there, I was the OPSO of the task group. This was like, all right. Dan: You need to be on. Robbie: On, on, on. Dan: You're the person that has to be on 100% of the time. Robbie: Correct. It ended up being a nine-month rotation for me as well, so it went from April all the way through to January, really. It was not a very nice thing to do, but I did it in a cold, callous manner at the time and that was just, I didn't know any different. Dan: Have you learned anything, by the way? Robbie: Tamara's sitting there going, "Hmm, I'm glad you actually didn't." Tamara: Yeah. You were a jack. Robbie: When you are surrounded by the chance of death and then the actuality of other people fucking dying around you on a very frequent basis, your levels of empathy... For me personally, anyway, it just fucking disappear because you can't fucking sit there and wallow and whine for weeks and weeks after losing a mate, because the next mission is happening in fucking 72 hours. Bloods in, we're going to go do that. Robbie: I saw many, many people go through that as well. When you're responsible for planning and resourcing and managing, and then coordinating everything that goes into it, you've just got to be on all the time. Tamara: Not that that's helpful. Robbie: No. Looking back, it's not healthy and it has contributed to some PTSD of mine, but at least now it's being addressed and it's being fixed and people will have to face that stuff eventually. But yeah, it was really cool to be over there as the OPSO. Fuck, we lost too many guys in that trip, actually. Many of them were some guys I did more Rio cycle with, so the guys you remember the most. It wasn't a very nice time, but you're over there doing the thing. Robbie: Sure as shit, finished that trip, bang, posted down to Canberra. So I didn't ever get to come back to Australia or when I left Australia, I went straight back to Afghan the whole time. It was a bit weird. Dan: I think that was your last trip to Afghanistan. Robbie: It was. Yeah. Dan: Can you give us a bit of an insight how drastically things had changed from that first time where you did your tac descent into TK to the last trip where you were sitting over there for nine months as the OPSO? Shit had evolved quite significantly between those trips. Tamara: They're more tense. Robbie: Oh yeah. The RTF was over there. The MRTF, I should say. They were rotating in and out. There was full bloody bunkered accommodation and everything. Dan: Air conditioning. Robbie: Yeah. Air con. Internet was there. The secret fucking K drive that everyone wanted access to as soon as you landed was still there for maintenance of morale by yourself. Tamara: Oh my god. Robbie: What else was there? Some cooks had flown in from Sri Lanka and India and stuff, so we're getting lobster and roast lamb and shit. Yeah. The mess over there was phenomenal. Dan: In 2012, I had the workshop for the MTF over there and we obviously had a pretty good relationship with the [Raimi 00:52:12] boys over the other side of the fence as well. Robbie: Of course. Dan: We used to have this weekly barbecue on Friday for maintenance and morale, but not by yourself. We'd have this rolling barbecue and I'll tell you what. We'd be like, "Oh, we've got good meat today, boys. We've got some chicken fillets, we've got this. We've got some burger patties," so on and so forth. They'd be like, "Yep. Sounds good," and they'd have this lovely feed over at our workshop. Dan: The next week we'd go across there and they're like, "All right, it's on today, boys. We've got T-bones, we've got ribs, we've got lobster, we've got this." I'm like, how good is this? You also had some pretty good Snickers ice creams over there too, by the way, mate. That mess hall was- Robbie: No expense spared. Look at Dane's like, "What? Fucking..." Dane: [crosstalk 00:52:52]. Dan: I'll tell you what. It was one of the greatest things. One of my cousins at the time, he'd been over there in the early days as well when the Dutch had the mess. Dane: Right. Dan: He was forever telling stories about how good the boiled cabbage was for dinner at night, of the different varieties and flavors of cabbage compared to when I later went over there and it's like, oh, it's Eastern. Today we're going to have crabs legs. All of the different meals that have been now provided by the civilian contracted force that was being able to come back and backfill on the role. So it was a very big change from that perspective. Robbie: It certainly did evolve a lot from rotation one, and even going into Kandahar and living there. The messes evolving. Fuck, they had bloody- Dan: The boardwalk. Robbie: The boardwalk, thank God it's Fridays. You could go get a ice cream. Dan: There's Starbucks down there. Robbie: Sure as shit, don't get me wrong. You always knew where those bloody T bunkers were, because you could fucking get rocketed at any time of day or night. Dan: How many times did that boardwalk get rocketed though? Robbie: Lots. Yeah, finished that trip, back down to Canberra and that's when I went and worked at Special Ops headquarters. I'm coming to the end now, ladies and gents, the next couple of minutes. Again, working in a formational level headquarters. I was working in the SOJ7 branch, the training branch, so I was their collective training guy. It was good. Robbie: I went to Guam, I went to Hawaii. I went back to Vegas again. I was like fucking, basically the international engagements guy bloody cruising in and out. I think I spent about 11 weeks of one year in Canberra because I was literally on the road all the time. The different collective training activities, I was responsible for planning all the large-scale activities. It was good. It was good being down in Canberra. Robbie: Actually, it formed part of my transition down there because my desk was opposite the brew room there. It was a big, open plan area down there, SO HQ. Which was weird. Again, obviously they had the little compartment rooms off the back end to go and speak about certain stuff. Robbie: It's funny. Even now when I look back on it, I'm like, it's not that fucking secret. It is because not many people know about it, but when you know about it, it's not that secret. It's not that big a deal. Certainly I remember when I actually did this charge, they're like, "All right, you need to sign all these forms now. All right. Major Turner, remember, you can't talk to anyone about that capability." Basically, you just need to forget it. It never really happened. I'm like, this is not fucking Men in Black, mate. You can't just like, bzzt! On fucking someone's eyes and you just have your fucking memory wiped. There was some special stuff that was going on down there but like I said, when you're involved in it every day, it's not that special really. Robbie: My office was directly opposite of the brew room and there was always old and bold, old SAS guys. I want to say, "Oh fuck, I'll turn 50 in another bloody 18 months' time." These guys were in their early fifties, I suppose, and they were coming back, doing continuous full-time service. There was one of them Bill and one of them Barry, they're like, "What are you doing here, mate? I haven't seen you for ages." He goes, "Oh mate, I'm just back here doing bloody continuous full-time service. I can't find a job out there." I'm like, "What do you mean, man? He goes, "Fuck. I did 27 years in the SAS and now I'm fucking in my early fifties and no one wants to employ me." I was just listening to it, overhearing it and it all started to fall into play because then I got that call from our mate that I went and worked with soon afterwards. He was like, "Hey, I hear you're thinking about getting out of the military soon." So, it planted my seed. Robbie: I'm like, "Hmm, I've done nearly 24 years. I'm 41 years old. I don't know anything else. I felt like I was at a bit of a crossroads. I'm like, I either start what other opportunities are going to be out there for me... I was never going to go to staff college. As a guy who was the joint fires guy, artillery fella in SOCOM, I wasn't going to get a slot at staff college to then go and maybe go and be the unit CO one day, because all the [inaudible 00:56:37] and arm school guys had got that under their belt. So that's good. I was happy being a major. There's some fucking awesome jobs as an O4 kicking around. Dan: Yeah, absolutely. Robbie: You've got enough clout, you've got enough flexibility, but you're not tied to a bloody desk all the time. So yeah, it was just a good little activity whereby I saw a bit of a glance into the future by going, these guys are in their early fifties, they can't find a job on the outside because they chose to stay for 25, 30 odd years in the military and then they don't don't know any different. You guys have heard the rest there all the way back on the podcast season one, about how I transitioned and how Axon started. So yeah, that's my bloody military story. That's how it all happened. Robbie: What do you reckon? Tammy? Some of that you haven't heard before. Tamara: A lot of that. It was good. Robbie: Yeah? Dan: Loved it, man. Robbie: Good stuff. There you go. Dan: Couldn't relate to all the army stuff but I still loved it. Tamara: You and me both. Robbie: Of course, yeah, I'm really, really grateful to now be... I look back on my time a lot and I see guys that I was recruit instructors with at Kapooka as an instructor in 1999, and they've gone on to be fucking tier two, tier three, tier four RSMs, and they've fucking still got the uniform on many, many years later. I'm like, fucking awesome boys, fucking top stuff. Robbie: The CO of the unit right now was a brand new junior burger captain when I was getting out back then, so he'd gone up through the ranks and performed extremely, extremely, extremely well. Other guys that I was with at the time, they're now full colonels and sometimes even brigadiers. I'm like, fucking awesome, fellows. You guys have done really, really well with your career. Robbie: Certainly, Dan I've said this to you before, if I had have stayed in, then maybe, maybe I might have fucking got picked up somewhere down the track and maybe I might've been a half Colonel or a full Colonel, like eight years later, having been a 15-year major. But one thing I do know is that there's no way I could have created a organization or an environment whereby... Axon's now brought over $130 million of wealth into the defense culture. Tamara: Defense community. Robbie: The defense community. Thanks, Tam. It's unusual whereby I don't really miss my time in the military having gone through that blow-by-blow activity that everyone's gone through. Why? Because we talk to military people every day. Dan: We didn't really leave, mate. You can't really leave. Tamara: I feel like I'm in. Robbie: Yeah. You've been dragged in. Tamara: I'm currently saying [ack 00:59:00]. Dane: I know more about it now than when I was in. Tamara: Yeah! Robbie: There you go. Thereby endeth the lesson, ladies and gents. I hope you guys have enjoyed my military career there. About why I joined the army, bawling my eyes out at Kapooka because I hated being there. And then eventually the jigsaw puzzle started to make sense and I absolutely loved my time in the military. All right. See you next time. [crosstalk 00:59:22]. Thanks. See ya
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