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Hollywood creates boot camp misconceptions for ADF recruits

sue mcgready

It seems American movies are colouring the perceptions of Australian Defence Force recruits who head into initial training fully expecting to be running around at the behest of barking drill sergeants.

Air Commodore Sue McGready, Director-General of Defence Force Recruiting, said there were misconceptions about Defence recruit training.


“It is quite different and it's a modern organisation. It's a modern training organisation, and we have modern training techniques,” she said in an interview with Defence Connect.

AIRCDRE McGready said defence recruiting talked to many recruits at the conclusion of their recruit training, with a recent visit to an RAAF base.

“There was a surprising number of them who said to us, actually, it wasn't like we thought it would be. They weren't the barking drill sergeants, and the doubling around, and all the stuff you see in the movies,” she said.

Some American movies appear to have had significant influence on the expectation of new recruits.

FAQs on the RAAF website for those entering No. 1 Recruit Training Unit (1RTU) even poses the question: Will it be like Full Metal Jacket, Heartbreak Hill or any other American army/marine style movie?

The answer: No, definitely not. At 1RTU the focus is graduating airmen who embody the Air Force values and are efficient and ethical members.

But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.

AIRCDRE McGready said it was physically challenging at the start, especially for those straight out of high school and studying for the HSC when physical fitness wasn’t at front of mind.

She said getting in shape was good for the recruits’ health, confidence and self-esteem.

This doesn’t seem to have hurt recent recruitment, with all three services achieving close to 100 per cent of their recruiting targets last year.

Around 80,000 candidates applied to join Defence each year, of whom about 7,500 were enlisted.

AIRCDRE McGready said Defence was now a high technology force, with a range of new equipment such as unmanned aerial vehicles.

Defence seeks to give candidates experience of this new technology.

“We have what's called flight camp and tech camp for the Air Force,” she said.

“For the Navy … we have what's called a submarine immersion program, where we can take people along and they can actually experience what it is that they might be doing.”

AIRCDRE McGready said RAAF flight and tech camps were really useful for young women, overturning many of the stereotypes and unconscious biases that had steered them towards particular kinds of careers.

“They have discounted the thought that they could be a technician or an engineer or a pilot or an air combat officer,” she said.

“We actually give them hands on experience and exposure to what it would be like to work in those kinds of fields. Surprisingly, a number of them walk away and go: Hey, I can do that. I can do that.”

Hollywood creates boot camp misconceptions for ADF recruits
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