16 August 2022

'A good person who wants to do good things': Kapooka's Commandant reflects on three years at 1RTB

| Chris Roe
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Colonel Andrew Deacon at Kapooka. Photo: Chris Roe.

Colonel Andrew Deacon says his role as Commandant of the 1st Recruit Training Battalion (1RTB) is a bit like running a busy train station.

“Because of the sheer volume, it’s all got to be programmed pretty tightly,” he explains.

“If all the platoons are trains, and recruits are the people on the trains, it’s all about keeping the trains on time.”

Warming to the analogy, he likens his role to that of the controller.

“I make sure everyone’s where they need to be, make sure that they’ve got all the resources they need to do their jobs and making sure that the base functions.”

COL Deacon looks younger than his 38 years and is in fact Kapooka’s youngest commander.

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His office in the aging HQ building is large and militarily formal, but his corner desk by the north-facing window is decorated with children’s drawings, family photos and a small collection of vintage Star Wars and GI Joe figurines.

“Recruits are surprised when they notice them,” he laughs, examining a pair of plastic creatures on the bookshelf.

“I guess it helps to put people at ease and know a bit about me.”

Also on the shelf is a neatly rolled red beret, representing his background in the Royal Australian Corps of Military Police (RACMP).

COL Deacon joined the army 20 years ago and after regimental training at Duntroon, says he was attracted to the variety of opportunities with the RACMP.

“I spent a majority of my time in field policing, so supporting combat brigades on exercise and things like that,” he says.

“You can move into investigations and a lot of opportunities to do something a little bit different but I always preferred the fieldwork.”

soldiers training

Australian Army recruits traverse the obstacle course at Kapooka. Photo: Department of Defence

COL Deacon says his deployment experiences in Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2013 provided valuable experience, but he says the leadership opportunities he’s had are the most rewarding.

“It’s probably those jobs where you are given the privilege of leading people and being in charge of a team,” he reflects.

“Being in command of the military police dog platoon as a Captain in Oakey (Qld), being an Officer Commanding of a Military Police Company in Darwin was incredibly rewarding and then of course this job.”

He describes his nearly three years at Kapooka as “amazing”.

“There’s a lot of enjoyment in a training job because you have a real purpose and you can see really tangible output in terms of what you achieved,” he explains.

“After a couple of postings at army headquarters level, I wanted to get back to really serve the army’s core business.”

He says the role of 1RTB is crucial in establishing a positive culture and setting recruits up for their career.

“From day one, is that inculcation into the organisation, the adherence to service values, understanding the profession that they have joined,” he says.

“We’ll teach someone how to shoot and we’ll teach them how to do unarmed combat, but it’s equally important that we teach them the values and the ethical decision making framework behind utilising those skills in the most extreme circumstances.”

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When asked what he looks for in a good recruit, COL Deacon describes the army as a “volunteer organisation” and says that they need a desire to serve and to be part of something bigger than themselves.

“In my mind, when you boil it right down to its essence it’s someone that wants to be part of our organisation, but also someone that’s a good person,” he smiles.

“A lot of our values are around service, courage, initiative with excellence.

“There’s things like physical fitness that are really important, but if you’re a good person who wants to serve and do good things, we can train all the other things in.”

COL Deacon’s time at Kapooka will come to an end later this year when he returns to Canberra.

“It’s been an incredibly fulfilling and incredibly rewarding job,” he says warmly.

“To spend three years here with an incredible team, having an amazing output has been a highlight.”

Original Article published by Chris Roe on Region Riverina.

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