Women in the Australian Defence Forces - we speak with Canberra's CPL Megan Polatos | HerCanberra

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Women in the Australian Defence Forces – we speak with Canberra’s CPL Megan Polatos

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About a month ago, a certain Commando came to town to put some lucky (?) Canberra bootcampers through their paces.

Among the group were a number of women in the early stages of their career with the Australian Defence Forces (ADF).

Joining the Army isn’t something you regard as a ‘traditional’ aspiration for women, but I got to chatting with the ADF girls and found that they were finding the job rewarding on many levels. And did you know there are over 80 different roles available for women – from healthcare and trades, to hospitality and administration. I spoke with Canberra’s CPL Megan Polatos to find out more about women in the Defence Forces.

What led you to a career in the Army? Was it something you’d always been interested in?

I had always been interested in the Australian Defence Forces through family and friends, and police through high school. I grew up heavily involved in Surf Life Saving so was always around giving, community minded people.

My studies in Sports coaching, Administration and a Diploma in Business Marketing lead me to become the Office Manager at the Southport SLSC. After working there for three years I was still looking for more and after discussion with a number of military members including visiting the bases and providing Iron Man Challenges for one of the Brisbane Sig Units, I decided to apply myself.

How long have you served, and in what capacities?

I have now been in for nine years. I joined as an Electronic Warfare Operator. After conducting some research and talking to other members I discovered that there are boats in the Army. With my Surf Life Saving background and love of water I put in a transfer and was quickly off to training in Puckapunyal and then Townsville to become a Marine Specialist. I am now a qualified  Coxswain in the Army.

(R-L) Corporal Megan Polatos from Defence Force Recruiting and Commando Steve congratulate a participant on her effort during the 90-minute fitness session in Canberra on February 22.

(R-L) Corporal Megan Polatos from Defence Force Recruiting and Commando Steve congratulate a participant on her effort during the 90-minute fitness session in Canberra on 22 February.

What have been the best things about a career in the defence force?

Conducting border protection operations in the North of Australia. Traveling up the coast of Queensland to Thursday Island. Working from Gove and out of Darwin.

Working with the Navy has also been a big part many of our exercises are with them. I have travelled to New Caledonia and New Zealand with the Navy on Exercise. The most memorable and rewarding experience was going on Op Samoa Assist, following the Tsunami in 2009. Assisting to re-build the communities and taking donations to the villages.

Every trip, every day, every job is different.

And what have been the toughest?

Initially, being away from family and friends when I was conducting my training at Kapooka and then job training in Melbourne. Then having a relationship with my partner who is also in the Military. Both of us were away more than we were together at the start. We now have our  2 year old son and spending time as a family is very important to both of us.

Corporal Megan Polatos and Captain Rachel Chapman.

Corporal Megan Polatos and Captain Rachel Chapman.

I think many women think that a career in the defence force is incompatible with being a mother…but does that need to be the case?

No not at all. The Army has introduced many new initiatives that assist military members balance work and family life. Especially being a mum and having a career in the Army. Initiatives include: working part time, Shared positions and working from home are just a few. The Army has also increased the number of days that are paid to be at home for a sick child or partner. There is also 14 weeks full paid maternity leave or 28 weeks at half pay, and you can have up to 72 weeks leave. This will be at not detriment to the rank of which you have when you take maternity leave.

What advice do you have for women considering a career in the Australian Defence Force?

There are so many different jobs that are available and no job is the same. Every posting, where you move to a new location will be different. You will always be gaining and improving your improving your leadership skills and your job qualifications. There are always opportunities for promotion based on your performance. The Australian Defence Force is a career with many jobs. Have a look into and you will probably be surprised.

If you’re interested in a career in the Australian Defence Force, visit defencejobs.gov.au.

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