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Axons Unleashed E29: Every Member of the Defence Community Needs to Listen to This - With Joe Losinno from Soldier On

In what will be his first appearance of many, Robbie & Dan are joined by National Manager of Psychology at Soldier On, Joe Losinno. In Robbie’s own words: “why did I not hear this stuff when I separated from the ADF 8 years ago?

In a mind-blowing conversation that has Robbie and Dan in many moments of rare silence, Joe thoroughly breaks down his own military career and eventual separation (which included having RT as his leadership instructor at RMC-). He goes on to explain the processes and behaviours that will resonate with all of you – it even has RT and Dan gobsmacked as they exited the studio. 

Don’t miss one of the most important episodes of Axons Unleashed so far. Once you’ve been gobsmacked, please share this with your mates!

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Episode Transcription:

Speaker 1:
Axons Unleashed.

Robbie Turner:
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Axons Unleashed. I’ve got my main man, my right-hand man, my great man, Dan Irwin here with me today, but we’ve got another great man with us, Joe Losinno, he’s the Psychology Support Officer for Soldier On. So mate, welcome to the podcast and fantastic to have you on here.

Joe Losinno:
Oh, it’s a great pleasure. And thank you very much. Just really keen to have this conversation today. So let’s get going.

Robbie Turner:
As we were just sort of talking about off air, ladies and gents, I want to be fully transparent here. I just got told literally 30 seconds ago, Joe, I must have been one of your instructors down at Duntroon and on your SSO course or something, was I?

Joe Losinno:
Absolutely, you were.

Robbie Turner:
Right, there you go. So I was just reminded of that then. So thanks for that ladies and gents.

Dan Irwin:
I just put him on the spot and I was like, “You have indeed met before, mate.”

Robbie Turner:
Because I was thinking about it in the car on the way in this morning, I’m like, “All right, I’ve purposely not spoken to Joe, because I want it to be a genuine, authentic roar and real upfront, okay, let’s get to know this guy,” but he’s like, “I already know who you are.” I’m like, “I apologise, bro.” When you’re down at Duntroon and instructing in front of hundreds and hundreds of people for a few years, it’s some people making impressions and some people don’t. So yeah, I’m now meeting you for the first time-

Joe Losinno:
Meeting you, which is great.

Dan Irwin:
There you go. The grey man, he obviously flew straight-

Joe Losinno:
Yeah, the grey man.

Dan Irwin:
… under the radar from that perspective. And so is that your formal title these days now, Joe is the site support officer at Soldier On or what’s the official position?

Joe Losinno:
I’m actually the national manager for psychology at Soldier On.

Robbie Turner:
He just gave himself a raise, that’s good.

Dan Irwin:
You’re welcome for doing that on the public forum. And what does that mean? So give us, I suppose, what does that mean? What does that mean you are to Soldier On and sort of what does that entail as a position for you nowadays?

Joe Losinno:
Well, from my perspective, what it means is, is that I look after a very dedicated team of psychologists, councillors, and in the future social workers and ensure that the team runs as efficiently as possible and provides the best support as possible to the veteran and veteran family communities. My job is no different to my officer role in the military where my job is to serve them to ensure that they have all the resources possible to thrive and produce the outcomes that we need, which is for veterans to thrive.

Dan Irwin:
Got it, yeah. So just my read on that obviously, down the side path you’ve got very clinical and you’ve got management as well. That sounded like a very management sort of role, have you also got a background in clinical psychology or what’s?

Joe Losinno:
Yes, I’m a clinical psychologist by trade. And I spent 10 years as a psychologist within the army. So that’s where I did my training and learnt my craft, but also have subsequently had three years in the civilian world as well.

Robbie Turner:
When did you, I ask this of everybody, when did you first have the inkling to think that you wanted to be a psychologist? Tell us about that, when the data was sort of first spawn in your own mind?

Joe Losinno:
I think that’s a good question, because I mean, I think about it a lot, but I think I gravitate to psychology because people tended to gravitate to me and talk about their problems. So there was something about me that made people feel safe to tell me their problems. So I sort of thought, “Why not get paid for it?”

Dan Irwin:
So you didn’t find psychology, psychology found you?

Joe Losinno:
Yeah, but also I did some work, working as a youth worker in council here in Melbourne and saw the work of psychologists. This is back in the ’90s, so this is before some of your listeners were even born. So, I saw what the psychologist did and they really fascinated me. It was just that near, being really close to the person and having that opportunity to assist and go with the journey and transform lives with people. So that sort of cemented it for me.

Robbie Turner:
And then how did that then transition into like, “I want to now go do this in the military space.”

Joe Losinno:
Well, that’s the thing is that I’ve got about 200 years worth of service in my family.

Robbie Turner:
Wow.

Joe Losinno:
So my father served, his father served and we’ve got people who have served in both great wars. So the military was just really part of my life-

Robbie Turner:
What’s going to happen, yep.

Joe Losinno:
And the fact that I got into the military so late was something that was playing on my mind. So I went in my mid-30s, which is not always ideal. You’re always seen as the old man within the military context. But I just didn’t feel that there was a place for me in the military until I found psychology.

Dan Irwin:
Just to get context on that, obviously, as you said, you sort of came through the military family network as well. What did that mean for you growing up? Did you do a lot of travel around? Did you get to see a fair bit or sort of what did your other family members that were close to you? What did they do while they were in the military as well?

Joe Losinno:
Well, my father wasn’t in the military when I was born. He finished and, but everywhere you looked around there was sort of snippets of my father in the military. There were photos, whenever he talked about his military experience, it was with great fondness. And it was a sense that I hadn’t done my right of passage into adulthood without going through the military. So I’m being really serious here, by 35 I still didn’t think I had grown up.

Dan Irwin:
You hadn’t ticked that box in dad’s eyes. You’re like, “Excuse me, you haven’t done your military service.”

Robbie Turner:
I’m 45 plus a couple and I-

Dan Irwin:
You’re being generous, I haven’t grown up-

Robbie Turner:
And I haven’t grown up. Don’t worry about it that’s fine. So you rocked up at Duntroon and then your body ran into me. Jesus, I’m interested generally, what were your first impressions of me?

Joe Losinno:
Passion.

Robbie Turner:
Right? Yep, I still got that.

Joe Losinno:
I didn’t absorb much, to tell you the truth, because you were just passionate. You were doing all the military. So everyone, if you haven’t been to Duntroon, there’s this big room and it’s a stadium type room and in the middle, there’s a sort of like a mud map of maneuvers and in the middle, there’s this guy just pointing out things. And I’m just thinking, “This guy’s actually quite calming. He’s really passionate about his work. His innotations are great, I’m just going to relax here and just fade away. So really, I used your lectures as an opportunity to rest and restore.

Robbie Turner:
Well, that’s a first.

Dan Irwin:
It’s just like, you’re so passionate about this that I feel like I don’t need to-

Joe Losinno:
I don’t need to, that’s right. Because if I’m with this guy, I don’t need to learn this, this guy, if he’s in front of me, he knows what he’s doing.

Robbie Turner:
I sure did a fair bit of with the psychs that were posted down to Duntroon. So as a leadership instructor we spoke about leadership, character and ethics, and of course, understanding one psychology, et cetera. So that’s when I sort of first got into leadership itself, Dan Fortune was down there as a CEO. He may not been there when you were there, but he was drawing to his leadership as well. And I guess it actually flowed into like why I called the business Axon. You would have noticed that straight away went, “Well, that’s interesting,” because it’s all about mindset. If your axons are firing in the right way per se, and they’re carrying that spark between the neurons to fire the body into action, you just, you got to be different. And if you’ve got that right mindset and you love doing what you’re doing, you’re going to show an element of passion, then it’s going to rub off on people.

Joe Losinno:
That’s right, and the way you influence most people. And I wasn’t the best example of that because I genuinely used your period-

Robbie Turner:
Clearly.

Joe Losinno:
… to relax, rest and restore was if you show passion in what you do, you are in a better space to actually influence that space as well. So yeah, absolutely.

Robbie Turner:
Great. So how did you get in contact with Soldier On, and I love this. This is the first time on this podcast that we’ve been able to talk about transition and talk about mental health. I guess the main pillars is all about joining the military, being in the military, separating from the military, maybe being a veteran entrepreneur, how to communicate better with your family or spouse. And certainly like, obviously we speak about property stuff as well, but this is sort of the first time Dan, you would agree that we’ve been able to cover off on this topic. So when you tell us about your own separation from the military and then certainly the transition into Soldier On, and then we can sort of cut backcast and go, how are you now helping people know what goes on to join the military, because as you sort of said before, you can’t talk about separation without talking about joining up. Because one transitions from being a civilian into a military person and then they transition out again.

Joe Losinno:
So, for full transparency, and just as we’re talking about, Daniel and I were just talking before we came on air was that you’ve had frank and open stories, and that’s what I’m going to be. So, the reason why I transitioned was that I was in a posting where I just did not, I just could not take another order. It just got to a point where I woke up one morning and said, “I can’t, I can’t do it. I can’t take another order.” And it wasn’t-

Robbie Turner:
Everyone gets to that point, yeah.

Joe Losinno:
Yeah. And so as a psychologist I started applying my own principles and started saying, “This is time.” Now, I dragged my feet for a few weeks and that’s it. I know a lot of people drag their feet for a few years before they come to that decision. So I’m quite pleased with how I achieved that, but how it looked like was that I started resenting all my leadership, and essentially they weren’t too bad. They weren’t the best leadership I had, but they weren’t too bad. And they were good people, genuinely good people, but I started not wanting to see them, because they were the hierarchy. They were making me do things I didn’t want to do.

Dan Irwin:
Yeah, and we’re not going to name units or people or anything like that from that’s relevant, but that must have been like, if you just woke up one morning and you’re like, “That’s it, I don’t want to speak to you.” There must have been some, unbeknownst to you there must have been some underlying sort of stuff that was going on prior to that.

Joe Losinno:
Yeah, absolutely. So, it was insidious and incremental. So it was a posting where I was removed from my tools because it’s just one of those staff postings that we do in the military. And so, I did very little clinical work, which is my passion, and I was doing a lot of admin. And some very demeaning admin, like for instance, doing name tags for conferences and stuff like that. Now, I had to do it because no one else would do it. And I understood that there is a chain of command and that even though it was an officer, it did fall on me to do that, but I just come back from two deployments back to back, and that was my next posting. So I just, it wasn’t the best reintegration back into the work environment for me. And so I lasted in that posting for 18 months, but I couldn’t do the additional six months and wait out for a posting order. So I was hitting around the 10-year mark and thought, “This is a good time to sort of move on and try something different in civilian world.”

Dan Irwin:
It’s a very natural sort of transition marker once you hit that-

Joe Losinno:
That’s right.

Dan Irwin:
… milestone, is there from a clinical psychology perspective, is there any particular reason why 10 years is a good market or seems like a natural market for a lot of people?

Joe Losinno:
I think it’s a psychological marker for people in the military. I think there’s also the long-service leave that kicks in around then. And also, there’s that additional medal. I didn’t wait till the 10-year mark, I just knew I had to leave. So mine was really nine years and three quarters.

Dan Irwin:
Wow.

Joe Losinno:
So I didn’t actually go for those milestones. So I left without my long-service leave. I was literally three months away from it and three months from getting another medal.

Dan Irwin:
Lots of people would have just been like, “Three months for three months leave. I can probably manage this.”

Joe Losinno:
Yeah. Well, the thing is, I just knew it was my time and that if I, I just would have felt like one of those deployment tourists, you’re just hanging around, not doing anything meaningful, anything purposefully outside of self-interest.

Dan Irwin:
I love the fact that you are the first person who declare people deployment tourists on some of these, on this podcast. I don’t think that term has been used first, but-

Robbie Turner:
The first time I’ve ever heard it.

Dan Irwin:
First time occurring. Those people who came in just for a little jolly into theater and had a look around and you had to look after them and then they went out two days later.

Robbie Turner:
I mean, I heard you say a couple of times then and you missed out on another medal.

Joe Losinno:
Yeah.

Robbie Turner:
Who fucking cares, mate quite frankly? The only time you put your medals on is once a year on Anzac Day, unless they’re displayed in your house somewhere in a big buddy portrait, like a really good mate of mine, JR Medals does, fucking free plug for you there, champion. But look, who fucking cares about that? If you’re done, you’re done. You don’t need to sell your soul to the devil for any longer, mate. And then, if you’ve got a higher priority or thing, you just turn your back and away you go. Good on you, it’s a really great story.

Dan Irwin:
Absolutely. Geez. So then, what was next? So you said, “Yep, I’ve had jack of this, I’m out.”

Joe Losinno:
So I went to [Cuddable 00:13:26] as a MHP, which is through a contract and it was miserable. I had the worst six months of my life and to be true, this is just to be totally truthful, and I was working within the military hierarchy. So I was working within joint health command and it gutted me-

Robbie Turner:
As a civilian?

Joe Losinno:
Yeah.

Robbie Turner:
Civilian MHP, mental health practitioner I take it?

Joe Losinno:
Yeah, that’s right.

Robbie Turner:
Okay.

Joe Losinno:
So I was, and it was soul destroying and soul crushing.

Robbie Turner:
Why?

Joe Losinno:
It’s, I got to see. So when you step out there’s, when we’re in the uniform almost like we’re in the, it’s almost like being in a monastic, in a monastery, we’re the monks, we’re the clergy. We walk around in the gowns, right? So the uniform in itself is a separation from what’s happening in the civilian world. So the civilians, literally we see the civilians just navigating and criss-crossing between us, but we don’t pay much attention to the civilians. And that’s a problem, but a reality at the same time. So I’m not going to sugar coat it, that’s what happens. So when I moved into the civilian life world and in a space where I was both once an officer and now I’m a civilian, I’d lost every authority and everything that I had as an officer in that space.

Joe Losinno:
And that was also an ability to advocate. So every other day I was being told what to do. And in essence, I don’t, again, we’re not going to name units, I don’t want to talk about processes, but I felt that my work was less about helping and supporting the client than more than just looking after a spreadsheet. And it really had a significant toll on me, to the extent where I found myself in the last over the year standing on the other side of the gates of Cuddable. I don’t know if you’ve been to Cuddable and just literally feeling deflated and I never returned after that. So it was one of the most horrible experiences I had. And it goes within that whole transition process, I lost that connection. Not only just to what it meant to be in the uniform, but I lost connection to my supports, even though they were there in uniform, I was invisible to them.

Dan Irwin:
You’d handed back your ID card as a military member and the gates just slammed shut behind you, right?

Joe Losinno:
Yeah. But I was also still part of the military because I transitioned into the reserves. But that meant nothing. So, as a civilian, I just felt so, in a military space I actually felt more lonely and more disconnected. So I talk about loneliness and disconnection a lot in my presentations and everything I do in terms of how people transition. I couldn’t advocate, I couldn’t support. I couldn’t do the things that I used to do. Even in the posting that I just had, even though I wasn’t doing as much work as I’d like to, I still had that sense of influencing the space. Here I had none of that, and that to me felt I wasn’t doing full service for the service person who needed my support.

Robbie Turner:
Joe, what I’m taking, that was a very, very transparent of you to say that, I’m just sitting here thinking, for the listeners out there right now, who are thinking about transitioning from the military and whatever feelings that brings up for you, ladies and gentlemen, please have solace in the fact that there is a mental health professional as an officer in the military that now had just undertaken his own struggles to be able to separate in a cool, calmer, collected manner from the military. So if you’re feeling anything other than that, just rest assure that you’re normal, this is what I was [inaudible 00:17:37] from you. There’s so many other people that are listening to this right now going, “I can relate to what he’s talking about so much. And if he had to go through that as an officer, as a guy who knows how to manage his own mental space,” if people out there are struggling, just please accept it as normal and just follow your gut. Follow your own path and you’ll have your own journey.

Joe Losinno:
Absolutely. I just, absolutely. The struggle is normal. There is a struggle that goes with transitioning. It’s not something that’s easy and I’m guessing that you would have heard many stories, and a lot of success stories that come from that struggle too. So, part of the struggle is also how you overcome that struggle. And I guess how in terms of how I did that was that I had a very supportive wife, she’d stood by me. I was on the other side of the gates and I was, the sadder the picture is that I was actually on my way to New Zealand. So, and I had my … So it literally looked like this guy on the pier with his luggage-

Dan Irwin:
Being kicked out, you’ve got your luggage.

Joe Losinno:
… luggage, who’s completely disoriented and lost. I seriously looked like a lost soul on that pier that day. And I rang my wife in New Zealand, because she was already in New Zealand, and she turns around and goes, “I’m glad you got rid of those arseholes. You were miserable, Joe, you were miserable every day.”

Dan Irwin:
It was her perspective looking in though. She was obviously watching you, watching you, watching you, this is all happening and just she must have just been waiting for that day where she could finally tell you, “Good riddance.”

Joe Losinno:
Yeah, absolutely. So, she supported me through that. And it wasn’t the hear-hear stuff, she was very direct and very firm with me, and just reminding me that I didn’t have … And that’s the thing, she had to remind me that I deserved dignity. I wonder how many of our veterans find it hard to find dignity out here, because they don’t feel that they deserve it. It was my wife that seeded that idea that I deserved some dignity at work because I was turning out, I didn’t feel I was getting any.

Robbie Turner:
Yeah, wow. That’s a very powerful term, isn’t it?

Dan Irwin:
Yeah.

Robbie Turner:
Yeah. Yeah. Dignity and respect and understanding. So let’s transition into, how did Soldier On come into your life then? Tell us about that?

Joe Losinno:
Ah, well, Soldier On came in after St. John of God. So I spent 18 months working at St. John of God at Richmond and in Burwood in Sydney. And that was transformational for me. I for the first time for a long time worked in the team where I felt that I was part of that team, and that sense of mission and belongingness and purpose was returned. I started working with veterans instead of in-service people and working in veteran trauma programs and helping to sort of develop and advise in terms of that experience as well. And some of that experience was lived experience, but a lot of that experience was because of just my whole life as a psychologist has been as a military psychologist.

Joe Losinno:
So it’s been my whole entire reality in terms of research, thesises, everything that I’ve done has been about the service member or the veterans. So it was great to put that knowledge to use and St. John of God were more than happy to take that knowledge on board. And they treated me with respect and dignity, and they also took the time to sit me down sometimes and tell me how to transition.

Robbie Turner:
Nice.

Joe Losinno:
I was surrounded by clinicians who were saying, “Joe, that’s military, out here we can do this. Joe, that’s military, out here we can do this. And it happened quite frequently. So they gave me the respect that I needed, but also they provided me the support that I needed to transition. So I did a lot of my transitioning at St. John of God, and I’m forever grateful to them. And I wished I didn’t leave, but I came back and came home to Melbourne.

Robbie Turner:
You know what’s a really interesting story, mine included, is that when you have a difficult separation from the military and you go through an adjustment period, a lot of us now gravitate back towards working in an ESO or giving back to the organisation in some way, shape or form as well. Because I thought, “Right, when you get back from New Zealand, are you going to now just go and work as a civilian psychologist, or are you going to go back in and still start working with a veteran community and giving back to the,” it’s almost like you’re giving back to the organisation that you turned your back on. Does that make sense? It’s a weird relationship there that I see as a very constant trend.

Joe Losinno:
Yes, yes. And a lot of, I mean, in terms of, I think there’s scope for me to do a presentation for you guys that you can have, but a lot of the presentation talk about is that sense of disconnection and that real sense of disconnection is a sense of loss.

Robbie Turner:
Yep.

Joe Losinno:
And it’s experienced as grief, and we call it disenfranchised grief. In other words, it’s not grief that you can openly display or openly discuss with other people, largely because it’s not a sanctioned grief. So there’s a lot of veterans walking around who are experiencing profound loss, akin to grief, but not knowing that one, it is grief, and that that’s normal. It’s a normal process of the sheer disconnection and the feeling of disconnection that they feel from their comrades. And let’s get this straight, the special bonds that are created within Defence are bonds that are not translatable to what happens out here.

Robbie Turner:
Definitely not.

Joe Losinno:
No. In fact, some of these bonds are actually, out here we have our intimate bonds with our partners and spouses, but these intimate bonds, these special bonds that are created with other serving members can go deeper than that, can be stronger than that.

Robbie Turner:
Stronger [crosstalk 00:24:01]-

Joe Losinno:
I deal with a lot of veterans coming out who say, “I hate my family. I hate my children. I hate my wife.” But they’re not really saying that. What they’re really saying is, is that, “I can’t experience the bonds that I’ve once had to the level and also to the intensity that I had for my fellow serving member.” Once we adjust that and normalise that and say, “Yeah, absolutely. Your whole training was conditioned for you to feel though that way,” these bonds are not only developed in terms of creating some sort of meaningful bonds between you for the sake of creating bonds. These were life and death bonds. These are bonds that you committed to your mate that you will protect them. And you had this unwritten contract that they’ll protect you. These aren’t replicable out here.

Joe Losinno:
So when you lose and sever those bonds for a lot of veterans, and even to some extent a psychologist within the military who wouldn’t feel those kinds of bonds forged in combat or forged in training like infantry training, to be severed by any of those special bonds gives us a sense of shame. One, of abandoning other people like us. And two, that profound sense of disconnection, but also that profound sense that I’m obliged to continue assisting other veterans and other people like us. I have a firm belief that veterans need to wait at the gates for other veterans to come out. Veterans need to serve veterans. We got to, because we get it. We’re already out here. We know the struggles, whereas try telling a serving member. Try telling a serving member that civilian life is hard.

Robbie Turner:
We do it all the time, don’t we, Dan? Like as myself, you and Dane, the other property coaches, as soon as someone’s out around about that 10-year mark was an interesting dialogue you guys had before, we’re starting to plant that seed already. Even if like, no, I’m a life or we’re like, “Bro, or lady-

Dan Irwin:
Bro or broette.

Robbie Turner:
Broette, start planning for, like we’ve got this little saying, Joe is like, “It’s not if you get out, it’s when you get out.”

Joe Losinno:
That’s right.

Robbie Turner:
Everyone that signed that dotted line that says, “Mr. Government, there’s a check up to and including the price of my life, value of my life,” you’re going to become a veteran one day, like it or lump it. That’s why it pains me to see so much bickering and so much argy-bargy and there are a spirit of core, which was essential in the military to the maintenance of morale.

Robbie Turner:
Even though you’ll stick together when you need to, inside bloody veteran Facebook groups and chats and stuff. I’m like, “Just fucking let it go. You’re not in the military anymore. You don’t deserve to classify someone a veteran or not, or whether they’re a PO or not. It doesn’t matter, we’re all the same. We’re all now veterans.” So yeah, it’s an interesting little thread you’ve got going on there, mate, which is good. And this is why as a veteran employer, myself and nine other veterans that work in the business and another one who starts next year, and shall there be more to come in the years to come, it’s a fantastic place and it’s a great little environment. I’ve built this environment as much for them, so they’ve got a soft landing and everyone’s got a place to come to work where they’re valued and respected and they’re contributing to something greater than them.

Robbie Turner:
But I’m doing it for me as well, because you can’t fucking join at 17 and get out at 41, and respectfully everyone else here hasn’t done 20 plus years. You just don’t know what it feels like. Everyone’s on their own journey, but it’s different. I’m creating this environment around my own little lunchbox here at Axon because that’s what I need as well. I couldn’t work in a civilian environment. Fuck, who’s going to employ me? Even Dane who started here recently is like, “You sure you got out eight years ago?” I’m like, “Yeah, man.” He goes, “Doesn’t look like it.”

Dan Irwin:
Still wear your [inaudible 00:28:00] pants around on the weekend, mate?

Robbie Turner:
No, not anymore. Do you understand what I’m saying though, Joe?

Joe Losinno:
Yeah, well time’s irrelevant. So you can be 20 years out and still suffering the … Still caught up within that military mind, and I’ve seen people up to 30, 40 years. I’ve seen the Vietnam veterans who are still in that military mind. It’s very hard to dislodge and there isn’t any, there isn’t any training to be a civilian, and there needs to be, absolutely needs to be. And it needs to be good training. It needs to be as much training as it took to make a soldier. So we can spend some time talking about what makes a soldier, because what makes a soldier makes the transition harder.

Dan Irwin:
Yeah. Well that’s what I was going to say like, how do we get this way? And I know that could be hours of discussion obviously, but what got us to this point that we now have this all in [inaudible 00:28:54]?

Robbie Turner:
And let’s just be clear as well. We’re using the term soldier to encapsulate all three services. We’re not just talking army specific here, so let’s just be clear on that.

Joe Losinno:
So just to get my plugin for Soldier On-

Robbie Turner:
Please do.

Joe Losinno:
… and I got [crosstalk 00:29:06] Soldier On, it was a natural progression from St. John of God to Soldier On. Soldier On really has that, it’s the only nationally, fully integrated holistic support service provider for veterans and their families. And it really developed, it delivers an integrated model where we look at the veteran as a whole. So we provide it through a health model and it’s an acronym. We all love acronyms here. So there’s health and wellbeing.

Dan Irwin:
We’re all nodding away, if you’re not watching on YouTube, by the way, we’re just like, “We do.”

Joe Losinno:
This employment and transition program, and I think that’s where we’ve created a relationship with your organisation as well.

Dan Irwin:
Yep.

Joe Losinno:
There’s learning through education and vocational training. And then the P is the participation in social connection and activity programs. I think that we provide a wraparound care for the veteran, and we’re an organisation that was designed for veterans. So it was a veteran who looked at his own situation and looked at his buddy’s situation and said, “This is the kind of insight we need out in this space.”

Robbie Turner:
Yeah, interesting. So it’s the same as how we, Dan, you only joined us six months after Axon started. We effectively created this business model to go, “What did we need from a property coach and mentor and guide when we were serving to help us so we don’t all walk away from the tens of thousands of dollars with our ADF housing entitlement?” So it’s from that relatability perspective and no doubt that’s why Soldier On’s got such a great reputation within the veteran community, you’ve built a business model around, what do these people need? Not to, what’s going to be best for us? It’s like, what can we provide the community in the name of serving, as you mentioned right at the very start.

Joe Losinno:
Absolutely. And just like you said as well, in essence it’s put me back to work. It really has given me that sense of purpose, belonging. And it’s given me a sense of mission again. It really has reinvigorated my contribution. We all want to contribute something, that’s why we join the military. And when we walk out, we still have that sense of contribution, and for many of us we feel like it’s flailing, because I want to talk about the world we’re transitioning into too, because we always talk about the struggle of transitioning, but what are we transitioning into? So let’s not think that the civilian world is normal and the norm. So I want to talk a little bit about that too, because the civilian world is going through crisis itself. And the veteran stepping into that is the canary in the mine and reflective of that. But we’ll go through the process and we’ll go, you ask me, Dan?

Dan Irwin:
Yeah, lay it on us, man, lay it on us. Tell us what happened?

Joe Losinno:
So the first thing, the first thing that happens that we need to know is that the military, and stop me when you can, because I can talk for hours on this. This is what I do.

Robbie Turner:
This is your monologue. I was just about to say, ladies and gents, if you’ve enjoyed the intro so far, fucking put everything else down and listen to the next 20 or 30 minutes, please.

Joe Losinno:
Okay. So the military prepares all of us and the people that enter it for life-threatening situations, and they have a mandate to execute violence to protect the civilian body. And at its most fundamental level military training produces disciplined bodies. And they’re capable of carrying out military labor and waging war on an enemy, essentially to kill another human being, okay?

Robbie Turner:
Yep.

Joe Losinno:
And we need to understand, we know that, you know this as an instructor, that the military is one of the most effective training and education systems that we have in Australia.

Robbie Turner:
Very.

Joe Losinno:
And it takes people, because, and think about how great it is. It takes people from disparate backgrounds and transforms them into an effective unified force.

Robbie Turner:
Well, breaks them down and builds them back up again. That’s the whole shaving your head at Kapooka thing.

Joe Losinno:
That’s right, absolutely.

Robbie Turner:
And having gone there as a 17-year-old and then going back there as an instructor is, I saw plenty of it, was great.

Joe Losinno:
Yep. Yep. And the whole idea is to radically arrest. And that means to sort of halt as much as possible the normal developmental, psychological, social, and emotional, and even biological, philosophical, because they give you a set of ethics and values as well, development. And so the young age of the person is really important, because the person’s already caught up in a structure in a hierarchy here, they’ve just come out of school. So at that age, that’s, they’re more vulnerable, or vulnerable, more amenable to really taking onboard the necessary enculturation that occurs where you have this exaggerated and overdeveloped hierarchical thinking. They’re more inclined to be amenable to provide automatic and unthinking responses to command, because they’re already caught up in that period in their life. So respect for authority will come pretty quickly for these guys at that age, they’re at a very susceptible age. So bringing in people at that age is really important.

Robbie Turner:
I’m loving this so far. This is like, I’m starting getting goosebumps listening to this, mate.

Dan Irwin:
Just, I had a little right grin on my face, because I’m like, “Yes, they did that. Yes, they did that.” So you do have that. Hmm, interesting. Interesting you say that.

Robbie Turner:
Everyone listening to this should be nodding their head as well going, “He’s so fucking right.” Daniel, you are listening in the background going, “Holy shit, this is cool.” Keep going, Joe.

Joe Losinno:
Well, when a recruit goes into the training they’re not only entering a process to redefine and strengthen their bodies ready to, they’re also, they’re ready to redefine their minds, their world view. And to be part of the military, that is, it really is an enculturation that takes all facets of the person and pulls it apart for the military ends. So, we need to sort of think that a recruit’s previous sense of personal identity, all their connective ties are severed during training. So we’re looking at a, during the ab initio training, so they can reinforce their cohesion to the unit and their new military environment. And it happens in the absence of the-

Robbie Turner:
Chucking your mobile phone away. Give away your mobile phone. No one else is allowed to involve themselves is.

Joe Losinno:
This is, it absolutely is an encapsulated, closed environment. You’re completely away from the purview of everything that you’ve known and the influence of everything that you know, and it really is important because it is part of that indoctrination process. And I mean, indoctrination in a positive sense. Because you’re able to sort of go into the military processes more completely and effectively that way. I think the first, I’m not sure if you’ve seen it, but I worked at Kapooka, within the first 10 seconds of those doors opening at Kapooka, and I’m not revealing any secrets here.

Robbie Turner:
I’ve told the whole story, mate. I was balling my bloody eyes out after about two weeks calling back to my mum. But yeah, what did you experience?

Joe Losinno:
Well, I saw it as a psychologist, I thought it was, and I saw it across all three ab initio trainings. That initial shock, that initial shock when the warrant officer sees a guy on the bus with his bag in the right hand or left hand and says, “That’s the wrong hand.” And sends, they start shouting at you, and I mean, shouting at you. That is as close to fog of war you’ll get. That resets and re-patterns your life world, everything changes from that moment. Now, the problem is, and I’ll get back to it another time, but I do want to make a mention, because there’s a lot of people who have not made it through training. If you haven’t made it through training, then you haven’t finished the game. You get what I’m saying? In other words, you don’t learn the rules to the game. So all that’s left within you, and you’ve only got one nervous system, all that’s left within you is the shouting, and that shouting could be seen as abuse and it can have some very profound effects for a very long time.

Joe Losinno:
So it will cause problems for the nervous system, because just imagine being out in the street and someone really going, and all the people that have been through it knows, and the word is beasting, by a warrant officer or your corporal. Now, if you make it through the process, you’ll understand the whole reason behind it. If you don’t, that’s lost on you. All you have is that kind, you see it, it will register as some form of potential trauma. We’re just got to know that, it’s just a reality, because it’s so profoundly different to what anyone would experience out in here that you can’t make any sense of what you’ve experienced without knowing the end game, the march out. The march out is so important, mum and dad coming up and seeing your chest back and proud, and saying, “Well done.”

Joe Losinno:
And also going through that adversity with a bunch of guys together is really important. If you don’t have that sense of completion, then that could be actually problematic. So for all those out there who have gone through the training, who have struggled since the training, just know that that is normal and you should probably seek help, because you may have some issues with anxiety, dealing with other people in authority, because think about it, that’s been rewired as well in that very short period of time. And you may struggle in workplaces to find your voice and space as well. So knowing that that’s a possible outcome is really important. And just one little gripe with the military is that they don’t transition people well from training establishments, they should do it better. I could have done it better.

Robbie Turner:
Want to just jump in, Joe, when I went back to Kapooka, they had the wing system back then. I did my first six or eight months as a drill instructor and then my last few months as a field instructor. Also did my sub one for sergeant down there. And I think, no, I think part of the reason why they do a drill passing out parade, sure that the male or female recruit goes out there and stands out there with their chest out in their head held high. But they’re also demonstrating that instinctive obedience that they’ve learned.

Joe Losinno:
Yes, absolutely.

Robbie Turner:
We need to have that-

Joe Losinno:
I’ll get to that.

Robbie Turner:
Correct. So that, I just want to make sure that for anyone who’s listening to this podcast will be like, “I’m not fucking sending my young Johnny or Sarah to bloody Kapooka or wherever it’s going to be, if that’s going to happen to them. Because if they don’t get through training, then they’re going to have all this trauma.” But I just, please keep it in context that that transition that Joe just spoke about, like it’s as the saying goes, “You joined us or we joined them.” You are going to join the military. You are voluntarily going in there to recondition your brain and your physiological reason to potentially have lethal effects on someone else, to protect someone else, whatever’s going to. So it all has a purpose.

Joe Losinno:
Yes. And there’s, I don’t see really any other way to do it because that obedience is really important. And instinctual behaviour is really important. It really is the fastest to react, the best planning, and the people who are most the attentive in a combat space wins the day. So all these processes are necessary, but it’s important to know what they are.

Robbie Turner:
Yeah, very insightful. Keep going, mate, this is brilliant. I’m loving it.

Joe Losinno:
So all these kids come through, and some older kids, and they’re operating in an enclosed and disconnected environment, really just separated from the community and all aspects of their day-to-day work and life are formally administered, every aspect. Individuality is absolutely discouraged and privacy is limited. There is very little allowing of solitude or downtime and very little time away from very vigilant eyes. And that has its reasons as well. You work, you sleep, you face challenges, you suffer and you conquer all your difficulties with a sense of security and family with these, all these new people around you. They get you through.

Joe Losinno:
And what tends to happen is, is that you start to surrender your individuality to the group identity, really important. So, individuality or personal identity has no place within the military system or the military hierarchy. And look, through this process, and we call it depersonalisation, the I becomes replaced by we. And it becomes replaced with an obedience and an understanding of your place within the system. That’s really important. Everyone needs to know where they are within a system this system, and their roles and their jobs. And adherence to the role as part of the group. So, a disciplined recruit will see themselves as no longer an individual, but part of a greater entity and also part of the military. And so what we’re going to talk a little bit about now is what I think is really important is the point that you brought out is, how do we do this? How do we inculcate service members into the military life? What are some of the technologies that are used to do that? Well, it’s so obvious, but it is a technology, it’s a drill.

Robbie Turner:
There you go. Sorry to step ahead of you there, but it’s just, yeah, it’s real honest and on the page-

Joe Losinno:
But it’s great because it means that I’m on the right track. I mean, you’ve been through this process, so if you’re guessing forward, then you know we’re on the right track here, yeah.

Robbie Turner:
Yeah, the main thing, I just want this to be as insightful as it can be for the other listeners, mate, that’s what it is.

Joe Losinno:
So the military, for some reason or other, many moons ago have used a synchronous movement and drills to transform the undisciplined body. Go to YouTube, watch first aide drill people and then watch them progress. There’s some excellent documentaries you can watch. And so transforming these undisciplined bodies into unit to military personnel and who always step, who march in step with each other and at the same cadence. This is really important and fundamental to the military to know that there’s a rhythm and cadence to being a military member. And I’ll come back to this at the end of this section because it affects transition profoundly.

Joe Losinno:
And this has two effects. It hastens the process of cultivating that instinct to obedience. And it also helps facilitate the loss of identity to the group. And it really results in forging ties for the recruit that can be stronger than family. This is where it starts to begin is synchronised movement. And I do a lot of work around transitioning people out through synchronised movement as well. So, if it’s synchronised movement that transitioned you in, think about it, it’s stored in your muscle and bone. So, to transition out there might need to be some synchronised movement with people out here. And I have sent people to do tango classes with their wives, instead of going to see a counselor, and it’s worked.

Robbie Turner:
Wow, that’s interesting.

Joe Losinno:
Yeah. So that’s something we can talk about another time, but it really works because think about tango and think about drill-

Robbie Turner:
Same, same.

Joe Losinno:
So yeah, not that I advocate it for everyone, but it tends to work with the people that we’ve selected to do that.

Robbie Turner:
And I was just trying to think of Daniel doing a tango, but I.

Dan Irwin:
It didn’t come up. I was like, “I don’t think I can move my hips like that.” Or anyone wants to see that, by the way.

Joe Losinno:
Well, psychologically what happens here is that there’s a sense of empowerment through joint action. And we have a name for it. It’s called we agency. And we agencies produce through another term that we’ve come up with, muscular bonding. And that means that we move in unison and we become more, and our researchers clearly demonstrate it, when we move in unison, we become more willing and able to give all to a collective aim. And so you can see how smart it has been that the military have co-opted this to shore up soldiers, the solidarity and also commitment to each other, but the commitment to go into battle together. And not only synchronized movement, but in synchronized in purpose as well, drill enforces that.

Joe Losinno:
And the thing is that we need to know is that the cadence is replicated everywhere in the military’s life’s member, everywhere the military person goes that cadence goes as well. And when you leave the military, the rhythm of civilian life can feel unsafe and can also reinforce a sense of loss and purpose, or the loss of sense of purpose. So let’s think about that, because that’s really important. Because all of a sudden you walk around your whole military career with a certain rhythm and cadence. It’s everywhere, it’s insidious. You go on a base, everyone’s in-step, no matter where you are, overseas, on bases, everyone’s in-step.

Joe Losinno:
Now, I always evoke, some of these transition classes that I run, I always evoke this image of, we’ve just gone through here. We’ve just looked at what happens in there. You’ve said that we get shaven. We need to sort of, there’s a certain carriage that we have to have, a certain deportment in terms of how we dress this. So we have a guy in Darwin running across the lawn with his shirt untied and hair unkept, sorry, shirt undone, buttons undone. And he’s running across the lawns there in front of the HQ in Darwin, okay?

Robbie Turner:
Like a RSM’s dream.

Dan Irwin:
I was going to say, where’s the RSMs? Run.

Joe Losinno:
I pose that question to the civilians in the room, and I pose that question to the military person. What do you think the answers are?

Dan Irwin:
Dude’s gone for a run, chasing his dog.

Joe Losinno:
Yeah. Yeah, he’s late. He is taking a shortcut. What’s the military person saying?

Dan Irwin:
Get off the lawn, the fuck you [inaudible 00:49:09].

Joe Losinno:
So think about that stepping out. So we think we understand the civilian world because we, during our military service we go out, we go shopping. We come home. We live in that world on the patches or in the community, but we don’t inhabit that world. That’s key, we don’t inhabit that until we do in transition. So for us the outside world is the other world. Our reality is the world that we are living in, in the military world. The synced world, the world that has its own rhythm and its own synchronisation. So when you’re on a base, you can literally pick someone out by the way they move. They stand out. And do you want to be that person?

Dan Irwin:
You were never that person, mate. I didn’t remember you, remember, you are the grey man. You want to be the grey man when you’re on a base, don’t you?

Joe Losinno:
Yes, absolutely. Why? Why do you want to be the grey man?

Dan Irwin:
So you don’t stand out.

Joe Losinno:
Yeah, and what does it mean to stand out?

Dan Irwin:
You’re not one of them. You’re different.

Joe Losinno:
And what do you think confronts you when you walk out into this world? Want to talk a little bit about it?

Dan Irwin:
You’re not one of them. You’re different.

Joe Losinno:
You have to be different out here, don’t you?

Dan Irwin:
Yeah, that’s how you stand out.

Joe Losinno:
That’s how you stand out. It’s the complete inverse, isn’t it? And also, out here, who walks in step?

Dan Irwin:
Only those people that wear cams during the day.

Joe Losinno:
I can pick a military person the next, I can pick a veteran and a copper anywhere, because they’re the only ones still walking in step. But if you walk out here and you stand in the middle of the city, what are you seeing?

Dan Irwin:
It’s almost like chaos. Because people are moving in different directions. They’re not walking together, at different cadences almost as one of the things that you spoke about is like everyone’s got their own different tempo and agenda that they’re running towards.

Joe Losinno:
That’s right. Absolutely. So how does the veterans since that, given everything that they’ve gone through and how it’s now in their bones and blood and it literally is who they are.

Dan Irwin:
It’s kind of part of their DNA by now, is that it just, it goes against everything that you’ve been built up to experience or to expect in the world around you.

Joe Losinno:
Yeah, so this other world moves differently. It moves differently, and you’re stepping into it trying to make sense. And the unconscious, the embodied part, the part that you have no awareness of is detecting threats and danger and is anxious, because things are moving differently. And you got to remember, you train and train and train to detect an enemy that doesn’t want to be found. So you train to look for things that move differently, at a distance, at depth. I did learn that from you, by the way.

Robbie Turner:
I always-

Dan Irwin:
Wasn’t always asleep.

Robbie Turner:
Why things are-

Dan Irwin:
Relaxing.

Robbie Turner:
I go through it with Tamara all the time. She goes, “Oh, can you say that at that? The reason why you saw that it just moved, movement is the number one thing while things are seen.”

Joe Losinno:
So whilst we can move, on bases reliably move at a certain cadence, out in the civilian world, what are we seeing?

Dan Irwin:
Yeah, just kind of chaos.

Joe Losinno:
Chaos. Yeah, yeah. And because we’re looking, we’re still scanning the environment. How many veterans you think get themselves in trouble, because they’re the ones picking out everything that stands out? Because they’re still hyper vigilant. Hypervigilance is trained in. I thought you were going to say something.

Robbie Turner:
No, no, no. I’m just.

Dan Irwin:
Absorbing it [crosstalk 00:53:00]-

Robbie Turner:
My thought then was like, “Fuck, why is it taking me eight and a half years to hear this? I should have heard this years ago.”

Dan Irwin:
I think, and ladies and gents-

Robbie Turner:
It’s making me feel better.

Dan Irwin:
Yeah. If you’re anything like me and you sit there when you’re listening to podcasts and your mind goes down little rabbit holes of memories and thinking about things that have happened previously in your life and you’re like, you have these light bulb moments and you go, “Oh, shit, that was why. Oh, shit, that’s the reason why I did this. And that’s the reason why I felt that way. And that’s the reason that at this point in time I was like that.” I can, there’s probably a lot more silence than you’ve ever received from Robbie Turner at the moment, because he’s just reflecting on shit that’s happened in his life and how having penny drop moments right now.

Joe Losinno:
Well, let’s talk about military life itself. So you go through all the training, and look, the thing is, is that people always talking about, it’s all recruit training. It’s not, okay? The process is, you go to recruit training. You have the march out, you get rewarded at the march out and you feel a sense of pride. So you feel that you’re on top of the world until you go to IATs. And then at IATs you go through the process again, and then you become skilled at your work and you think you’re at the top of the pile until you go into the first unit.

Robbie Turner:
And always entering at the bottom-

Dan Irwin:
Then you’re back in your little fish, big pond again.

Joe Losinno:
Yep. That’s right. So our identities don’t form for at least four year years. It takes a long time to inculcate into the military system and be part of the military system.

Robbie Turner:
I think, would you agree, Joe, that it might depend on what unit you go to and what service you’re in and what call you’re in et cetera.

Joe Losinno:
A 100%.

Robbie Turner:
Yeah, there’s no doubt about it that not everywhere is four years. Like if, yeah, I’ll just leave it at that.

Joe Losinno:
No, it’s absolutely true, yep. But you can see how it takes time to acculturate and to feel part, feel that you’ve got some sort of mastery in terms of your skills and also where you sit. And that’s really important, because what we know from our research is that people who leave before four years are most vulnerable at transition as well. It’s counterintuitive, but there’s a sense that they don’t have any, they haven’t fully developed their identity within the military, so they don’t have a strong footing there, but also don’t have a strong identity outside in the civilian world. So that can be quite like jarring as well. I just thought I’d put that in there, just to let people know.

Robbie Turner:
I did think that was counterintuitive when you just said that.

Dan Irwin:
Yeah, that smaller period of time. And I suppose it also sort of gives credence to that sort of, so the initial minimum period of service needs to be a certain portion of time to allow that safety net as well, which probably isn’t spoken about very much at all. People are sitting, they’re going, “Oh, well you bastards, you’re keeping me in because of your own selfish interests that I need to complete my Rozzo.” There’s probably certain elements of duty of care that almost come with that as well if you’re sort of doing things by halves.

Joe Losinno:
Yeah, I don’t want to get involved with how the military thinks, it’s-

Dan Irwin:
I’m not trying to assume I know that either.

Joe Losinno:
Yeah. There’s, but all this is important because we need to know what develops. Again, it really is important that people feel the sense of pride as they go through. Remember, I mean, if you do infantry training, that is really hard work. Most of it is about dealing with discomfort, but more than discomfort. At times quite a lot of pain, and learning to soldier on through that. It has its, so there needs to be a sense of reward at each level that each accumulation of a skill set. So going through the initial training is important that we get rewarded at that juncture. And we have everyone come along and pat us on the back, that’s a very strong reinforcement, and also at the end of our IATs as well we get that very strong reinforcement, but also that sense of progression. And the key thing here is, and let’s be straight, within the military it’s progression away from the civilian who’s seen as lesser then. Let’s be real about that.

Robbie Turner:
When I had the opportunity to work in some joint headquarters and, Dan, you’ll be able to clarify this as well. I think another thing that which goes into one’s inculcation and culture and therefore mindset and the way they act is whether you’re a war fighter or not, and I’m not into the whole war fighter and [inaudible 00:57:37] thing. I don’t give a fuck about that, zero, as spoke about 20 minutes ago. But when you’re a war fighter and the things that you are doing have consequences. So you just have a different focus when you go into, in my experience anyway, when I went into big joint headquarters, you could see people that were war fighters and people that were not. And don’t get me wrong. I met some Logies and I met some other people that support war fighters that loved their fucking job. But at the end of the day, they still had a slightly different mindset and it just, it was just slightly different.

Joe Losinno:
Yeah, absolutely.

Dan Irwin:
And I mean, I think one of the things that you were speaking about there, Joe is, you get your reward at the end of the course, right? When the infantry guys go on, they finish their time at Singo and they formally have their Skippy badge. And it’s like, “Hey man, you’re now qualified. You are a rifleman.” It’s like, “You’re right. I am a fucking rifleman.” Look at me, it is, it’s a very, very proud moment. Obviously the commandos have their own presentation ceremonies and things like that. They really do. They go, “Okay, you’re not just getting your reward, you’re also getting accepted into another community as well.”

Joe Losinno:
That’s right. And that’s what’s really important. So with each increment, the closer you’re getting to that sense of being within that community, those relationships are really important. Those really special bonds, those bonds forged in, you have my back and I have your back. This is how they’re forged.

Dan Irwin:
We’ve been through this. We’ve gone through this together. We’ve been-

Joe Losinno:
That’s right.

Dan Irwin:
We’ve been in the trenches metaphorically, or truly in the trenches together. And just like-

Joe Losinno:
Literally through some training. Absolutely, yeah.

Robbie Turner:
It’s like a pilot, it’s like a boat driver. It’s like a missile number working with something. Like if you are working with dangerous stuff and you’re in that war fighter mentality, you just train differently as opposed to doing some other stuff. So it just, it is what it is.

Joe Losinno:
That’s right. Absolutely. And so that’s really important to know, because it is a conveyor belt. There is a conveyance that goes with this. And it’s really important that military people meet their milestones. Because what happens when they don’t?

Dan Irwin:
They get backlashed. And you lose your group that you’re going through the process with effectively by doing that. And you have to reform that new network in the next cohort pond and so on and so forth.

Joe Losinno:
So cohorts are really important to go through. And you’re literally, your number is against the cohort too. So in essence, if you find yourself pulled back for any reason, injury and even backlash because of poor performance, that has a cascading effect for the rest of your career and puts you out of sync for the rest of your career as well. So, it really is important that there’s that sense of conveyance in your military career. The military really promote this sense of conveyance too.

Dan Irwin:
Well, we had a great conversation with Mick just a couple of episodes ago, ladies and gents, if you haven’t caught it, but he spoke about the camaraderie and the cohort that he had from his time at RMC and basically said, “Look, from my cohort and the people that I’ve worked with and that are part of my team over that period of time, I can go anywhere in Australia and I will have a bed. And I know that they will have my back effectively.” And that’s after him being out in the military for many, many years now. And obvious, Mick’s got a very, very strong affiliation with Soldier On as well. So go back and listen into that episode. But at the end of the day, that cohort or that group of people that you actually spend all that time with, they’re still there for you when you get out, because they still understand who you were when you were in. So it’s like from an individual perspective, I suppose you don’t really ever lose that cohort, right?

Joe Losinno:
No, no, you don’t. And these are the special bonds that we’re talking about, bonds that partners don’t get, bonds that people out here don’t get. It’s just, and I’ll come to that, because that’s really important. Yeah, absolutely. And it is the cohort. So that cohort effect’s really important as well. When we lose sight of that cohort, it can be, again, it can cause us quite a lot of distress within the military system. So it really is important that we know that military is a conveyance, there’s milestones that we need to achieve. If those milestones aren’t achieved, we start seeing people really struggling, start seeing their interpersonal skills drop, they’re functioning within the military drop. That’s a possibility, it doesn’t happen all the time. We see that relationships with their partners also becoming a little bit more fractured.

Joe Losinno:
And so, there needs to be a lot more work done about those people who are just moved out of their cohort and out of sync as well within the military, I think. And it may help reduce the incidence of things like moral injury, which is a conversation for another time, reduce the incidence of mental health problems that are stemming from non-combat roles as well.

Dan Irwin:
Absolutely. Okay, this is interesting so far. And then what do you do with this?

Joe Losinno:
Well, we can talk about what happens inside, because civilians, I mean, I don’t want to talk about the next part, which is hierarchy, but I do because civilians find it quite fascinating. So basically I talk about, a little bit about hierarchy and I go, “Look, service members, they’re contained within an inflexible hierarchical system where there’s a pronounced strict up and down chain of command with one single authority at the top. We know that, that’s implicit. And that’s the thing is about our trainings already made us know that, and where we fit within that chain of command. And the thing is here is that within this structure there are formal power distances between the different ranks or services at Grays and clear control mechanisms, clear control mechanisms in the system. And in these hierarchies the exercise of power control and the association feelings of dominance and subordination become routine and normalized. In fact, when we remove ourselves from this, we feel unsafe. I think a lot of veterans, how many of you sort of feel, when you’re out here in the civilian world feel frozen at times? What extent-

Dan Irwin:
Like they’re yearning, “Where’s the brief I’m going to get from my boss?”

Joe Losinno:
Boom, yeah. So out here it isn’t there. It’s sort of like, I’m waiting for something, I’m waiting for something. And it’s really, someone’s waiting for an order, it’s trained in.

Dan Irwin:
I often say that Defence members are professional at waiting.

Joe Losinno:
Yes.

Dan Irwin:
They just need to know what they’re waiting for, and they will wait forever. Because they’ll just be like, “There’s a line? I can get in that line. There’s probably something at the front of the line. I don’t know what it is, but I’m going to get in that line and I’m going to wait for it.”

Robbie Turner:
Maintaining people’s situational awareness really, isn’t it?

Dan Irwin:
So very professional at that, yeah.

Joe Losinno:
Yeah, so part of the, obviously part of the bringing people out is to sort of in, I always try and get people to sort of think about their best leader and let themselves know what their best leader would say in that circumstance, that internalised leader. Because then really needs to be self-leadership out here as both of you know. As soon as you find out that self-leadership is what you require and how to do that, I’m not saying that just because you know the concept that it’s easy, it’s not. It really is a process of learning how to develop that self-leadership in you is really important. And if you find yourself frozen and stuck and not knowing what to do, that’s when you should probably seek mentoring. You don’t have to go see someone like me, you can seek mentoring through other people who have gone through that process and found their way through self-leadership.

Joe Losinno:
So, but that’s really important to know because it happens within a hierarchy, doesn’t it? We used to wait all the time for an order to come down. If there was anything that had any form of ambiguity, we wait for clarity. Does that make sense?

Dan Irwin:
Yeah, mate loving it. Yeah, that’s what I mean. I think it all really makes sense, it’s just because we’re sitting there reflecting on everything about why, why we do certain things, I suppose, from that perspective as well. So no, it’s for a lot of you that there sort of just be making those sort of connections. So what’s, I mean, we’re speaking a lot like, is there more stuff that we do or is there now, “Okay, you now know how you’ve been built up, this is how we get out of it, or this is how we now, now that we know how we’ve been transitioned in and created.”

Joe Losinno:
Well yeah, there’s a whole heap of other stuff, but one of the thing that really gets to the civilian is that within these hierarchical structures most disputes are resolved in favour of the supervisor. We just need to tell them that. So people, a lot of veterans don’t even enter into disputes in workplaces. So they’ll harbour things. And in this structure a subordinate member does not have the right to withdraw their labor and has a very limited ability to engage in any form of industrial action with disciplinary codes that force the member to obey. So there’s very little room for advocacy in this context. So we need to know that that happens to veterans within the … So when they step out of the workplace, they’re disinclined to say no. They’re the ones that work the hardest because they don’t know how to say or advocate for themselves.

Joe Losinno:
So sometimes in these veteran community and these veteran organisations we need to sort of have a sense of, what are your rights within this organisation? What’s the processes of getting your complaints and disputes because we find that, and I’m finding that working with veterans a lot is that I tend to get them because they’ve exploded. But again, like you said before when you ask me the question, there are obviously things that happened before that, and there are many things that happened before that. Before they’ve exploded that have led to them exploding within the workplace. And a lot of it has been the fact that they didn’t feel that they had the right to seek instruction and direction from a supervisor. We got to be mindful of that with our veteran community.

Robbie Turner:
One thing which I think is really important is that straight up and down leadership hierarchy that you were talking about and that moral command authority that one’s superior has that if you don’t follow the directions, then you have the umbrella hanging over your head about you might go to jail for this as part of the DFDA, depending on whatever the incident may or may not be, that doesn’t exist out here. So I guess one of the really key things, and I’m about to do a leadership presentation for our team as we go up onto our yearly retreat, and having someone who’s taught Defence leadership, I still remember what the Defence leadership definition is. And we’re going to talk about that when we go up there, because I still think it’s got some merit here. But the type of leadership and then leadership styles in the civilian world are almost the antonym to what you see in the military world.

Robbie Turner:
Just, yeah. So that instinctive obedience that we both agreed upon half an hour ago doesn’t exist out here, but there’s also a sense of urgency that needs to come place that your senior team leader, manager, whatever it’s going to be, expects you to perform a certain way, otherwise you’ll start to get some warnings coming your way and then you may not have a job anymore.

Dan Irwin:
Yeah, absolutely.

Robbie Turner:
So it’s a very interesting, it’s an interesting dynamic as the leader of this organisation and the 16 of us that work here, there’s only 10 veterans. That means there’s six cities that don’t have the same mindset, background, culture, upbringing that we all do. So it’s an interesting dynamic, put it that way.

Joe Losinno:
Yeah, absolutely. And that’s really important to know. It really is important to know that there are two different life worlds happening in the same workplace. And if you’re going to be a veteran-centric, and I know you guys are, because my team can’t speak more highly than what you guys are doing. So it was a real privilege-

Robbie Turner:
Thanks, mate.

Joe Losinno:
… for me to come on board. But for those other organisations that bring in veterans, just be mindful, there are two worlds existing parallel. I know that because I’ve worked in an environment where uniform people were working close to civilian people. And the uniform people I had only known days ago were now invisible to me and I was invisible to them. I cannot tell you how a stranger juxtaposition that was for me. I thought that had been a soft landing for me to go into a military environment in transition. But actually, I think it was worse than I did. It was better for me to have cut all ties completely and probably gone to St. John of God, I didn’t know at the time, but I know that there’s a lot of veterans who feel the same way as I do who’s gone into these environments. And just couldn’t really understand being on the other side, the politics, the nuances of communicating as a civilian, getting themselves in trouble because of being too direct or too horrible.

Dan Irwin:
I might have heard that. So Joe, you started to sort of pivot, I suppose and giving a couple of bits of like, I think I would have done better by making sort of a clean snap there and just moving across, given that we are talking about, okay, we’ve built you out, we’ve got all these things now that we need to undo. If you had to give our listeners the top three things even coming, I mean, you only get three, so you got to be very careful with how you use this. What are your top three little snippets of advice that you would say to people that are now thinking about being on the transition, and this doesn’t just need to be to the member, but it can be obviously to the remainder of their family or their work unit. What are the three big pieces of advice that you’d throw out there, I suppose?

Robbie Turner:
I’m looking forward to this.

Dan Irwin:
I don’t, this is absolutely a question-

Joe Losinno:
Do I really need to think about it?

Dan Irwin:
Question was asked [crosstalk 01:12:09], so.

Joe Losinno:
It’s a tough question, because it’s almost top three and I really, the-

Robbie Turner:
Well, maybe if we can frame it this way, what’s some of the three trends that sort of come up the most?

Joe Losinno:
Okay, all right. So let me, all right, I’ll come up with something, let’s go backwards. It’s more-

Robbie Turner:
No, one’s going to question you, bro, it is what it is.

Joe Losinno:
So for me, so the process, believe it or not, one of my biggest frustrations, my biggest frustrations is that we’ve known about transitions for a 100 years. Think about it.

Robbie Turner:
Yes.

Joe Losinno:
We could have got this right a long time ago. And this is not one without a 100 years worth of knowledge behind it. So we’re here thinking that we’re the first generation of people transitioning, we’re not. What’s unique about us and is fundamentally unique with us is that this is against the backdrop of 22 years of continuing operations. We don’t know what the effects of this is on our veterans, our spouses or partners, their children, our children. And also, other family members who went along for the ride. So 22 years of continuous operations, we’ve never been in this situation before. And not only that, the operations in which we are now showing up to are profoundly different to what was there before. So it’s very difficult. It’s very difficult to sort of say the top three things. And I know that we need to wrap up and I’ve got so much other stuff that we can talk about.

Robbie Turner:
I’ll assure you, you are coming back. We ain’t finished with you yet, mate.

Joe Losinno:
But I think the first thing that you need to know is just know this, there is a reverse culture shock that occurs. So the first thing is insight that what you’re feeling is normal. And you need to know that most veterans find, even veterans who’ve left as clean skins and haven’t left with medical injuries, which is a whole nother category of problem that I can spend hours with. So, but people will find unexpected difficulties out here in this transition process. You are transitioning to another world. It’s not one that you aren’t trained for. And I’ll give you an example. If you can imagine this, you are trained for a pathogenic environment. In other words, a hazardous and dangerous environment where there is most likely the potential for loss of life, even your life. That’s what you’re trained for. So you need alert, tense and obedient and disciplined bodies to go into that space. That’s what the military person is trained for. The civilian is trained for autonomy and traversing this world with a sense of strong self.

Joe Losinno:
And they need to walk this world in harmony with other people, so they need soft bodies, relaxed bodies. So they navigate the system with soft bodies and they don’t pay attention, they’re literally in a digital haze and dissociation. And that’s okay out here. When a hard body meets a soft body, the hard body is contagious. You do have effects on people. These effects are largely unconscious. So if you feel people are looking at you, they are. And that’s because you’re carrying a hard body in a soft environment. I hope that makes sense?

Robbie Turner:
Yeah, it totally does.

Joe Losinno:
Yeah, and that’s okay.

Robbie Turner:
Thank you [inaudible 01:16:24], the hard body soften over time.

Joe Losinno:
Yes.

Robbie Turner:
I don’t know if you’re spoken metaphorically.

Dan Irwin:
Hey, when there’s no one doing PT in the morning, then you know.

Joe Losinno:
Hey, look, I’ve got the distinction of turning a six pack into a one pack in a year, so.

Robbie Turner:
Well, it’s good. Keep going, mate. What’s your next one?

Joe Losinno:
So just know that that happens and that’s okay. Just go about your business as you would. So people are looking, because your body is contagious and triggering, but the attention span is that, okay? They will resume soon as you pass. So you create your own wave. As soon as you pass by, they’re back to normal. And what tends to, and the reason why that’s important is because a lot of veterans meet other veterans, two hard bodies meeting each other and they end up in, I always get them ending up in fisticuffs. Does that make sense?

Robbie Turner:
Argy-bargy.

Dan Irwin:
Yep.

Joe Losinno:
Yeah, because now they’ve picked another veteran as a threat. So just know that you’re going to come out with unexpected difficulties and that you are made for different purposes, and that the civilian world is about finding the self. The second part is to stay connected with other veterans. Find yourself a mentor. I really believe that veterans should look after veterans, because only veterans have gone through what they’ve gone through, that doesn’t … Let me be clear. Most of the psychologists that work at Soldier On aren’t veterans and that’s okay, they are brilliant workers and they understand the veteran, and you don’t need your professional help to understand implicitly embody the veteran experience. What they need to be is veteran-centric. They need to understand the veteran ply, that’s completely different.

Joe Losinno:
But for all these other things, veterans need other veterans. Especially veterans who are more progressed, and it has two effects. It helps the veteran transitioning immediately in that transition space and helps the veteran who’s moving forward to still have that sense of purpose, belonging, and that sense of identity still intact. But it also gives you a sense of how far you’ve moved as well in this terrain, in the civilian space. And that’s really important because these movements are really important. Remember, transitioning in the military is all about-

Dan Irwin:
Hitting your milestones as you go through [crosstalk 01:19:03]-

Joe Losinno:
That’s right. So you can see your own milestones out here.

Dan Irwin:
Last one, is there going to be a biggie?

Joe Losinno:
I don’t know. Okay, so.

Robbie Turner:
Whilst you’re trying to come up with one, that you don’t know-

Joe Losinno:
What do you think?

Robbie Turner:
… what you don’t know. You don’t know what you don’t know, like what you were talking about then. I’ve had heaps of conversations with people that found out that I did half my career as an OR and half my career as an officer, even though there’s, I sort of used the Duntroon intern, even though there’s an internal rank structure at Duntroon and you can march out of there with the colour sergeant or whatever, you still don’t truly know what it’s like to be a junior NCO and a senior NCO. So you’re using that sort of thing there about the other amazing psychologists at Soldier On. Just because they didn’t wear a uniform doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing. They just don’t know. They just can’t connect at that pathological level-

Joe Losinno:
At that embodied level-

Robbie Turner:
That’s what it is.

Joe Losinno:
And sometimes that can, it’s almost liken to, sometimes you need someone, and I really mean this, you need someone who hasn’t been in the quicksand with you, because what can essentially happen is both of you can get stuck.

Robbie Turner:
That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. Let me put it forward to you, buddy. Let me try and put some words in your mouth, because I don’t want to be here struggling.

Dan Irwin:
I’ve got one more.

Robbie Turner:
You go and then I’ll maybe close it off with this.

Dan Irwin:
All right. Your experiences with mental health, I’m a psychologist, so I’m going to be frank. Your experiences with mental health within the military may have been adverse, okay? You may not have been provided the support that you needed and the psychologist, any of the mental health practitioners may not have seen your distress at the time of your distress. For example, on our taps. Or on any other form of screening that you did.

Robbie Turner:
And the other member was hiding it because they didn’t want to be put into that category.

Dan Irwin:
That’s right. And that knowing that, that is also part of the process to not show any visible form of what you perceive to be weakness, not what really is weak and what is not, but what you perceive to be weakness. Now, if you could have masked your physical injury, you would have. So-

Robbie Turner:
Guilty, like everyone else.

Dan Irwin:
Yeah, crazy [crosstalk 01:21:23]-

Joe Losinno:
So we’re not only talking about masking yet. We’re not only talking about masking psychological injuries, we’re also masking all types of injuries. You’re going to be gas lit by processes that you go when you’re looking for compensation saying that you should have brought [crosstalk 01:21:47] earlier. That’s bullshit, okay? The whole thing about the military is about that masking. And I want to talk about it another time. So don’t, so you always come too late to resolving those injuries. I just want to let you know, and I want to reassure you that psychology and mental health supports work.

Joe Losinno:
But you need to find the person that is suitable to you and is amenable to you, where it’s a special type of relationship. So if you have to sack 10 psychologists before you get to your psychologist and sack 10 psychologists, it’s okay, because the relationship is what’s fundamental in this business. It’s not like a GP, a GP can be a real prick and still provide you good service. A psychologist, you don’t have to be their friend, but you need to feel a sense of connectedness and some sort of sense that this person will understand you and keep you safe as you reveal things that you wouldn’t reveal to yourself in front of a mirror, or to anyone that you care and love.

Joe Losinno:
So the relationship is fundamental. We are not the same as we were in the military. I get that psychologist may have let you down at an important juncture in your career. I understand that a psychologist may have been behind the ending of your career or part of the advice process of ending your career. But it’s not the same out here. It really isn’t the same out here.

Robbie Turner:
I just want to advocate for exactly what you just spoke about, as I’m coming up to my ninth year separated now I’ve only just started seeing a psychiatrist and some of the PTSD and anxiety and depression that I didn’t even know I had has now really, really sort of started come to the fore, having panic attacks in the car on the way to work, et cetera, cetera. I’m like, “Fuck,” and I put, I’ve neglected it for so many years until it was really affecting my quality of life. And now you’re absolutely right. I’ve been out to find a great psychiatrist and I’m now connecting with him and telling him stories that I’ve literally told no one else before. And it’ll probably stay like that, for good reason. But you’re absolutely right. It does work, Joe and it was something that as a special forces officer I needed to avoid at all costs because I would have been quickly placed in a certain category, and then that would have been the end of my career even earlier.

Robbie Turner:
So, and then even my psychiatrist that I’m talking to now, he’s just like shaking his head going, “I can’t believe that shit still happens.” But it is what it is. And no doubt some of the work you are doing with the upcoming Royal commission, et cetera, is enlightening what’s going on in that space to make sure that everyone’s sort of being supported there.

Robbie Turner:
My closing comment, ladies and gents is this. And I’m far from perfect as everyone that knows me would agree, but when you do make progress and when you do get your shit together and you embody being a civilian, and the reason why I called this podcast, Axons Unleashed is some of the stuff you spoke about before. I feel like we are unleashed from the cocoon, we’re unleashed from the bubble, we’re unleashed from the DFDA, we’re unleashed from the bullshit rules and regulations and leadership and stuff that we may or may not experience.

Robbie Turner:
So when you do get it right and you do become a … Being a civilian is fucking awesome, being a veteran is fucking awesome. But I understand that it doesn’t come easy. But when that jigsaw puzzle does make sense for you, I feel like, and you hear me say this all the time, Dan, even though I loved being in the military, my fucking hair was green pulsating through my veins. As you experienced at Duntroon, as you experienced with Duntroon when you first saw me as well, but I can honestly say this, I’m living my life best that now.

Robbie Turner:
Now what I’m doing, now what I’m contributing, now who I am and what I’m doing far surpasses anything I did in the military. And I had a pretty fucking decent career, go back and listen to those bloody episodes. So it’s not, I feel like I’ve got a decent standing to be here prophesizing with people. But I want to give people hope that when you come out the other side, that it can be awesome. And when you find a great workplace where you are respected, when you are valued and when you have a great workplace culture, being a civilian is fucking awesome.

Joe Losinno:
And it really is. And I really wanted to talk about how the veteran can actually help our community, because I think our community and our social body is in distress. And I think the veteran with that sense of special bonds and connectedness can actually contribute very profoundly to the community. And that’s probably for the next podcast that we can-

Robbie Turner:
[crosstalk 01:26:28], so it’s three we do with you, mate.

Joe Losinno:
I agree.

Dan Irwin:
You are absolutely without a shadow of a doubt, Joe, coming back to sort of shed some more truth bombs and enlightenment. So that I feel like we almost had our own little private-

Joe Losinno:
Totally-

Dan Irwin:
… session here where it’s like, “I’m just going to make you understand why you’re the way you are now, fellas.” And it’s bloody. It’s really, really powerful stuff, mate. So we appreciate you coming on.

Joe Losinno:
Well, it’s been a pleasure, but we’ve, talking about one transition that’s transitioning in, we could talk about transitioning out at another time. But you can also see how transitioning in affects how we transition out.

Robbie Turner:
I think you’ve covered, from my personal experience you’ve covered heaps of stuff, which has enabled me to understand why the way I am. Mate, yeah. Daniel, we are absolutely getting Joe to come and join us again. If you are still listening to this part of the podcast, thank you so much for sort of being on here and those that are listening and watching on YouTube, do yourself a favour and share this straight away. All the other podcasts that you have listened to, like we’ve done a fair few now. Not like Joe Rogan sort of fair few, but we’re getting there. This has by far been the most insightful. It’s been the most educational.

Robbie Turner:
You’ve heard the least from me along the way as I was sitting there listening and reflecting and sort of going through it all, Joe. So you’ve certainly had my captive audience and attention here, please share this, pass this, comment, whatever else. I don’t give a fuck whether you give it a five stars or not, I’m not asking for that. I’m asking for the message to be distributed amongst your friends and circle. Do the righty, show some mates here, get all the stuff that you’ve heard now under your belts and sort of pass it on to your friends. But most importantly, keep following us and keep listening and keep watching. Because Joe, when you are on again, brother, you watch how many more people will be screaming out for episode two, episode three and episode four of how much Joe Losinno can bring to the Defence community. Thank you so much for being here with us, mate.

Joe Losinno:
No problem.

Robbie Turner:
Thank you very much.

Joe Losinno:
An absolute pleasure.

Dan Irwin:
Appreciate, thanks buddy.

Robbie Turner:
See you, buddy. Bye.

Joe Losinno:
Thank you. 

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