The Australian Defence Force has served as a genuine and exciting career path for generations of Australians who are looking for an alternative to entering the workforce at a standard 9 to 5 job.
This sentiment rings true for Lieutenant Commander Elizabeth Raymond, who joined Defence Connect a few weeks ago to reflect on her 18-year career in the ADF and Royal Australian Navy.
After joining as a recruit at Jervis Bay, LCDR Raymond has advanced through the ranks to become Staff Officer to Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead, who also appeared on the Defence Connect podcast recently.
How did you end up in the Navy? Was it something you always thought you would do?
I think from an early time in my, I guess, my education life, I decided that I didn't want your stereotypical nine to five job in an office. I think I knew that I wanted to do something different from very early on.
Whether it was police or defence, I wasn't quite sure. But by about year 9 or year 10, I had pretty clear in my mind that defence was what was gonna work for me in the way that I thought about the world and what I wanted to do in the world, and Navy just appealed to me most.
Yeah, it really was ... That was the end of it from there. I grew up water skiing on the Murray River, so I spent ... all of my life really around the water. I thought out of all the three services, that really appealed to me most. To be connected to the water. And that's where I've ended up.
I was the first member of my family and still the only member of my family that ever has joined the Defence Force. I guess, early on my parents were quite hesitant because it's not something that was part of our family life and it's not something we knew much about.
But look, they were quite happy to take me down to recruiting.
It was in Geelong back then. I don't think Geelong recruiting is there anymore. And I guess, just speaking to the uniform people in recruiting to figure out what it's all about and whether we'd go and do it, and it started from there. Went through the application process, all the testing, the aptitude testing and signed on the dotted line.
How was your first day in uniform? Do you remember?
I remember getting on the plane from Melbourne, flying to Sydney, getting on the bus to get to Creswell, which is a full day's travel in the end. And getting down to HMAS Creswell in Jervis Bay, which is just the most beautiful spot in NSW. I think to be honest, [I was] quite in awe of what was in front of me, and putting a uniform on for the very first time, I guess daunting, but it just felt right.
I guess the first time I put the uniform on, I think I'd solidified that I had made the right decision to join the ADF.
Moving 17-plus years on from that first day in uniform, did you think you'd be doing what you're doing today?
It's really interesting. Throughout my 17 and a half years, I've, I guess, flipped and flopped about what I was gonna do and what path I was going to take.
Interestingly, when I first decided that I was going to join the Navy, reading all the brochures, one of the options was to be gunnery officer, and I said, "That sounds awesome."
And funnily enough, that's what I ended up becoming in about 2010 when I completed my warfare officers course and did specialist training as a gunnery officer, as an air warfare specialist.
It's quite funny that out of all of the ways that I could have gone when I was 17 and a bit, I decided that was what I was going to do. And although I've had some turns and changes along the way, that I ended up in that spot. Amazingly, I am where I thought I'd be, but certainly didn't get here the way I thought I'd get here.
You can listen to the rest of the podcast here.