This article was a submission to the 2022 Cove Competition.
As a first year recruit instructor (RI) in 2021, the first platoon was the most challenging as this was the initial learning period where I was trying to find my feet. I remember spending most of my days at work for the first six weeks trying to learn a certain patter or flow of lessons and the management of recruits. The administration behind the scenes that instructors have to go through can be a rude shock. When dealing with recruit administration, which could involve up to fifteen personnel per section, a section commander needs to focus on key aspects required for the recruit’s development. Assessments and reporting have to be accurate and completed in a timely manner.
Having a competent senior instructor in the platoon played a huge role in helping me further develop my leadership, instructional styles, coaching techniques, and administrative methodologies. A positive and healthy competitive work environment in the section commander’s office encouraged me to work outside of my comfort zone. A barracks-based example included giving my first Trainee Performance Infringement (TPI). This posting helped me get more comfortable with instructing a large group of people. When I was in school, I used to get stage fright. Now I have no concerns conducting drill demonstrations in front of a whole platoon, or conducting combat shooting demonstrations on the range for two combined platoons.
During my second year in Kapooka, I had the opportunity to play the role of a mentor for the new RIs that posted to 1 RTB. I achieved this by sharing my own experiences, teaching techniques and different methods on how I would approach a certain task or lesson. Seeing the junior RIs become confident, knowledgeable, and able to teach the recruits has been exceptionally rewarding. Since I was comfortable with my role of being a RI from the previous years’ experience, I was able to dedicate more time understudying the platoon sergeant.
Whilst in session, some days felt long. What kept me going was the light bulb moments that recruits would have once I had delivered a period of instruction. Seeing them put this knowledge into practice and to watch those skills further develop all the way from day zero to the 12th week of training. March out day is a big day in itself. Right from the start of the morning where we conduct a reverse wake up. This activity is designed to take the platoon by surprise and to display the humour that the Australian digger will always have. For example, when the recruits are woken up, every piece of instruction that was taught in the barracks during morning routine for the past twelve weeks will be deemed incorrect, instead the recruits would be able to square gate down the right-hand side of the hallway whilst not excusing themselves when passing staff. This is followed by having a sit-down breakfast with the recruits at the Mess. The recruits are then promoted from Gold Tab to Private. A major highlight and achievement that I will always be proud of is being able to see them marching out in front of their families, with a proud look on their face knowing that they have completed their first milestone in becoming an Australian soldier.
In the future, I hope that something similar to the Recruit Instructor Course (RIC) with a few modifications could be brought back. As new march-ins, most of my peers and I found this course to be tremendously beneficial. This course gave us the opportunity to work in small teams and deliver blueprint lessons prior to facing recruits as brand new RIs. During the RIC, I was attached to a platoon in session where I was able to shadow and observe the day to day running of a section and the platoon as a RI. This was a beneficial experience prior to commencing my role as a fulltime RI in my own platoon, as the exposure to the role during RIC helped calmed my nerves. The Military Instructor Course (MIC) should be added to the RIC as an enhancement on different methods of delivering a lesson.
Throughout my time at 1 RTB, I have enjoyed working with different corps within the Army as this has given me an insight and a basic understanding of how other trades may approach and take on a set task. This has given me more of an appreciation on how other corps operate in comparison to RAAC. During this posting, I have definitely improved my all-corps skills and knowledge. I have picked up little tips and tricks in relation to drill, weapons, field, and other learning outcomes that are integrated throughout the Army Recruit Course.
The Recruit Instructor Sustainability Disability Allowance (RISDA) and location of 1 RTB did persuade me to chase the dream of being a RI. The posting to Wagga Wagga has located me closer to my family who are in Sydney. The organising and funding for events in Kapooka for families is outstanding. These events include Australia Day, ANZAC Day, State of Origin, end of year functions, and many more. The RTF also subsidises haircuts and cost of unit PT gear for staff. I have also had the privilege to be a part of activities that I would not normally get the opportunity to participate in. I was nominated by the unit to fly to Adelaide for the Chief of Army Symposium where I was able to get a better insight into the technological advancement planned for the modernisation of Army.
As an RI it has definitely been an experience with highs and lows, however the highs definitely outweigh the lows. This is a job that requires time and dedication to lead, mentor, coach, and guide the recruits throughout their training. At the end of the day when you have moulded them into what you believe an Australian soldier should be, I can dare say that the hard work has paid great dividends. This is a job that I would highly recommend. It is an amazing experience that you would miss out on if you were never to post to 1 RTB as a section commander.