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Australian Defence Force

  • 50,000 - 100,000 employees

Benjamin Harington

The Army sets you up to achieve beyond your expectations. As an engineer in the military I’ve been employed in ways I never thought I would.

What's your job about?

In the Army, engineers generally work as part of a multi-disciplinary team alongside tradespeople, logisticians, project managers and finance officers to either procure or maintain Army capability.

A typical day might start with physical training followed by creating test plans to evaluate how a particular bit of kit performs; responding to defect reports and tackling an identified problem; or you might find yourself conducting live testing and trials to see how a particular piece of capability is performing. There is a lot of engagement with the Defence industry as well as capability managers.

What's your background?

I grew up on a farm in Gympie, Queensland where I attended St. Patricks College. I always enjoyed and excelled at maths and science, but I wasn’t really cognizant of where that would or could lead me as a career. I started studying engineering at the University of Queensland, however, I dropped out because of my lack of direction.

I joined the Australian Army 25 years ago as a truck driver still with no real concept of what my career would be. Army appealed to me because of the adventure and the physical lifestyle. I wanted to get out and see places, meet people and travel.

After a couple of years as a truck driver and soldier, I was selected to attend the Royal Military College, Duntroon and graduated as an officer in the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Corps. Subsequently, at the age of 24, I applied and was accepted into the Australian Defence Force Academy to study electrical engineering and this time I had the right focus.

I graduated aged 28 and commenced my second career in the Army, now with a technical qualification to further my career. I enjoy using the engineering training I’ve had to solve real-life problems. I still love maths and science and I’m glad I’ve found a job that has allowed me to put my abilities into practice. 

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes, definitely. I believe anyone who enjoys math and science and is prepared to take on the challenge could become an engineer. I think engineering and STEM, in general, can seem intimidating at the outset, but once you get past the initial theoretical parts of the study, you get to know how to apply these skills to create something that you previously only imagined. 

Through various postings, I have started, stopped and then come back to engineering. Thanks to the Army I have had the opportunity to move between leadership and management as well as engineering roles. What I love about being an Army engineer is the opportunity to make important decisions on the job. You’re not stuck in a lab or behind a computer. You get out into the field, leading and managing people and creating solutions. In the Australian Defence Force, you could find yourself designing and building systems, programming a robot, designing bridges or designing planes. The opportunities are limitless. 

What's the coolest thing about your job?

The Army sets you up to achieve beyond your expectations. As an engineer I’ve been employed in ways I never thought I would. I’ve worked in leadership, management and command positions, and instructional and logistics positions. I’ve managed multimillion-dollar assets and I’ve travelled the world. I have completed a Masters in the United Kingdom, conducted work experience in Sweden and been deployed to the Middle East. 

Also, it’s really pleasing when you can do something in the office and you see the fruits of that labour out in the wider Army for years to come. I’ve worked on weapons and body armour and I’ll watch the news – watch deployed soldiers – and think ‘I had a hand in that and it wouldn’t be that way if not for my idea or the work I did’.

What are the limitations of your job?

Military engineers often don’t specialise in one field as civilians are able to, but we will work with people who’ve worked in a specific field for 10, 20 or 30 years. So we have the opportunity to learn a lot and draw on the expertise of engineers in the civil sector. 

What are three pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student?

  1. Trust in your training – I used to always doubt and question what I was taught, which can be a good thing but you also have to understand the people training you are far more experienced and they’re teaching you things for a reason. 
  2. Don’t rush – you don’t need to rush your personal life or career. Good things happen to those that wait.
  3. Enjoy the moment – enjoy each job and each posting because you’ll gain something from each one. What looks to be a challenge or a difficult situation could end up being one of the greatest experiences of your life.

In the Army, you can set yourself up for the future with world-class training opportunities. Be paid to develop vocational and life skills and put both into practice undertaking interesting and varied work.