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Former SAS operator Mark Direen

by Shaun Kober
May 31st 2021

From a young age, Mark showed an interest in the military and in 1993, at age 18, enlisted into the Australian Regular Army.

On completion of his initial employment training for the Infant... More

what does it mean to live life to the fullest train to your potential and perform at your best. Leave nothing on the table. That's a non negotiable, is that I I strive to be better every day because if I'm not on top of my game, how is anybody else gonna follow me down the road? Keep demanding more of yourself to live up to that potential and to stay hungry. Training is progress. You know, when I look at the word training, I think of steps, baby steps to get somewhere that you want to be, and that is basically your life journey. It's a mindset in itself, man, it's like, it's not just about I know that for you, a lot of that's about the physical, but we're constantly in training, whether it's growing our skill sets, whether it's growing our physical bodies, whether it's growing our relationships, whatever, and all of that is a training ground. And that kind of goes back to the mindset that we just talked about. You underestimate yourself and you don't even start. But then once you start, you often surpass what you thought you could do perform at your best mate. That's that's sort of what life is all about. You don't have the knowledge and have the fitness, the healthy ambition and drive that no matter what comes along.

When that next phone call comes, I can just say yes, I don't have to worry, just go and do it, yo what is up guys, Welcome to this episode of the live transform podcast? I'm your host, Sean Cobra and joining me today is Mark Doreen, who spent over two decades in the Australian military, including 10 years as a special forces operator. Mark, welcome to the podcast mate. Sure, it's going to be here, man. Pleasure. It's good to see you. It's been a couple of years. Uh we met in Australia in Hobart at one of my army reserve units. You came in, gave a speech, had to catch all the boys um and kind of talked about your experience going through the military um and as a special forces operator. Um and I know that a lot of the boys that got their blood pumping and they're like sweat, I'm going to go full time, going to go special forces blah blah blah.

Um I was coming out the other side, I just finished six years full time service and then I went into reserves for a period of time there, but that's where I met, you know, and we've kept in contact over the years. Um I'm really excited to have a chat to you today. You're um the first S A. S. Operator that I've had on a former S. A. S. Operator that I've had on the podcast, I've had commando. I've had some other uh Ira guys, Australian regular army guys. Um I've had british military, I've had us military. Um But yeah, it's an honor to have you on the podcast today, Matt. Yeah, it's great to be. I think we've probably both come a fair way to since that talk. Yeah, absolutely, yeah, 67 years or something like that. But um yeah. Um the first question that I typically ask people is in regards to Swiss Eight, so I'm not sure if you've been following this back home. Swiss Eight is a proactive mental health program that's designed by veterans, initially four veterans, but has been pushed out to the wider community To allow them to structure in eight pillars of health and wellness via an app on their phone.

I'm an ambassador for them, I really love what they're doing. Um I've used their principles myself going through that discharge process and I'm sure this is something that we'll talk about as we go through today's session, but um the pillars of health and wellness that they use our sleep, nutrition, time management, discipline, fitness, personal growth, mindfulness, and minimalism. Any of those pillars stand out for you. Um and if so, what are they and how do you apply them into your life? Yeah, I've heard of the suicide guys, I've probably followed him now for a fair while. They've been around for a year or two. Um And in the public eye, they've been they've been working behind the scenes for a long time, man. Um you know, after one of one of the boys jesse Byrd unfortunately took his own life. Um You're one Area X one. Our our lad. Yeah, that's right, yeah. So that it was actually started by X one our our lads after one of them unfortunately took his own life a number of years ago. So yeah, they they've been working behind the scenes for many, many years, but yeah, they've been in the public eye for the last year and a half or so and and doing doing a good job too, I think.

I mean, I don't follow um like a lot of points like that. I don't wake up in the morning and read those points and try and live through them throughout the day, I think. And I think in my younger days, like when I was in the military, I was probably too busy to think about it. Yeah, fitness was a massive part of my military career, I suppose, trying to keep up with the guys around me all the time, but I didn't think of fitness wasn't a hobby of mine or, or or something like that. It was just something you did for work. I've kind of noticed now as I've gotten older, I suppose that my awareness of those things is a lot better in my younger days, it didn't matter what, just as long as I put fuel in my body keep working. But now as I get older, I know if we eat junk food for a couple of days while I'm traveling or something, I'll start to feel it big time.

So I try to be better, I'll try to put better food in my body. Um The time management sort of one, I love it. I'm not a big time manager. I don't sort of sit down at the start of the week and I just prioritize things for me as they come along and that's pretty much all my time management works. I'm good with, I'm good with sleep. I don't know whether it's the military career, it's just me as a person, but I can function really well with six hours a night, which is probably a bit less than the recommended and then throw asleep in there once a week. But the ones, the points that you bring up the swiss a Like to educate people on the ones that really sort of resonate with me I suppose is the personal growth one. Once I sort of started finishing up my military career and I was probably also coming to the end of that security contracting piece That I've done in about 2015, I started to research a lot of personal growth stuff myself and just through the study of it, I think I was actually then immersed in the process of it understanding emotion better and and mindfulness.

And I had this massive amount had Nearly 20 years of experience behind me um unique experience with things like fear and and fitness and performance and stuff like that. But I didn't have a lot of the theory, so learning the theory resonated with me, that growth part was able to piece my history together, you know what I mean? That's interesting. You say that, um it's something that I've noticed with myself and it's come up, as I said, I've spoken to a number of military guys, ex military guys on the podcast, and it's something that's come up numerous times is, you know, when you are in the military, you're constantly growing, you're constantly learning, you're constantly taking courses and then applying those lessons and then, you know, you're drilling certain skills, you're drilling them over and over and over again. You don't get to progress until you get those fundamentals right. Um, and you know, you're, you're taking these um leadership courses, you're surrounded by amazing leaders, You're put in these different positions where you're constantly forced to adapt, constantly forced to be flexible, constantly forced to grow, and then once you get out of the military, then you don't have that structure anymore.

And I think that's where a lot of guys lose that because it's all about that professional growth. Like you want to be like, I'm sure as a Saas Catman, you know, you want to be the best fucking operator that you can be because you want to, you want to contribute to the team, you don't want to be a liability, you don't want to be the dude that's dragging us and holding everyone back man, so you're doing whatever is necessary to be at your best. Yeah, absolutely. You want to survive, you want to be an asset to the team, but ultimately, uh, you're no good to anyone if you're injured, you won't survive say Yeah, those early days in the military, there was not really that personal um investiture in your growth because you were too busy growing exactly like you said, you were just put on courses, you were sent to do training. So at the growth was huge young guys a couple of years in the military.

Um, yeah, there, you know, phenomenally educated and trained people, but as you just said, once you get out of the military, you're no longer forced to continue growing. That's when you need to be out of transition to make it a personal part of your life, the personal growth in that fitness space or the knowledge space, education, space, training and continue to have great experiences in life now comes down to you. So I did that well around 2,016 I took ownership, I suppose that my own personal growth and kept reading and doing things, kept getting the word man, That word right there, ownership is so fucking important, not just for ex military personnel that have gone through that transition are no longer being belt fed, forced to learn, forced to grow, forced to develop. Like now you're taking ownership for your own life and, you know, seeking out these answers.

It's really cool man because when you're doing all these courses you're learning, you're growing, you're adapting. Um, you're being super flexible, but you're also applying these skills, like you don't really notice what's happening at the time, You're just like, you're just along for the ride and then when you get out, you go through your own journey, you're putting your own processes in place, you're figuring out your own path, direction you want to go. Um, you look back and you go, man, I'm actually really grateful for a lot of those lessons that the military taught me. Is there anything that stands out for you that you learned from your time in the military, that you have now applied into your current life? Uh, tapes everything, all those, all the soft skills, you can name hundreds of them. Whether it's whether it's that tenacity to keep going when things are hard or it's the leadership teamwork, um, work ethic, time management as you mentioned a minute ago.

Um, all those soft skills that I learned in the military, I try to still use every one of them today. Yeah, I don't have as much need anymore from, you know, and stoppages on a belt fed machine gun. So some of the hard skills have dropped away? Not all of them insurance, marching and things like that. I still using daily job, but it's the big one that stands out that I got from the military are the soft skills and I think it's the ones that people forget to promote in their character to once they get out of the military. Mm that's a great point. Obviously spent quite some time in the military which is very structured, very regimented. Um has their way of doing things. You become um you adapt to that culture, you adapt to that social environment. And I think, you know, I only spent six years full time in the military covered three deployments in that time.

I kind of got in at a good time where you hit the trifecta. So that was a great time for me. But even just that six years, man, that is those six years of full time service have had like an everlasting effect on my character and the person that I am, you know, a lot of people when they do discharge from the services, they throw away all of those soft skills and hard skills. You know, they stop doing the things that made them good soldiers because now they don't have to, now they don't have to get out of bed at the same time, They don't have to shave every day. They don't have to focus on their dress and bearing and attention to detail and all that sort of stuff. Was there a period of time where you threw all that sh it away or did you did you find it fairly easy transition, those skills back into the civilian world? I wouldn't say I threw them away. I mean, I've been through some traumatic experiences in my life, so I've certainly first hand experienced post traumatic stress, I suppose. So at some of those occasions, you know, you might I have one too many beers on at some time, or you might just be a little bit depressed on the odd occasion, being able to recognize that and picking yourself up the next day type thing is I suppose the thing that I actively went out and sort of learned myself to be able to recognize and then to be able to continue to go forward and do good things and great stuff continue to lead an interesting life.

Mhm. We're probably going to circle right back to this part of the conversation. Um but what I want to go into what I want to go into next is your military career. So talk to me about, we'll talk to my audience about when you joined how long you spent at the battalion for, why you decided to apply for special forces and then we'll kind of pick up the conversation from there. Mhm. Yeah, I sort of grew up in to see and for me, I don't think I, when I was young I had this mad desire to join the military. Uh some big influences, I suppose early in my life that was a truck driver and I like motorbikes and cars and so while I was in high school I read a few military books and I actually did army cadets in a couple of high school years, I didn't think I'd ever joined the military. I actually tried to become a motor mechanic As I was leaving school, pretty much great, 10 miles tired of school and I wanted to get a job.

So I thought I'd go and get an apprenticeship and unemployment was not good in to see. So They're trying to get a job. Part went on for a fair while, about 12 months or a bit longer. And eventually my mom said to me, why don't you enjoy the army? You like you enjoy your army cadets? Why don't you go and get an army apprenticeship? And so that's what, that's what led me into recruiting. I sort of thought to myself, I don't know, I haven't thought of that before. So I went into recruiting and and applied for an army apprenticeship. The funny story, I think with it is that actually got one, so half a dozen trips to recruiting. You're doing test, I'm aptitude testing and mechanical aptitude testing and then you're doing interviews and eventually I got a letter sign, you've been accepted to apprenticeship school and come in for an interview and in the midst of handshakes from the, from the recruiting officer, I sort of informed him that I changed my mind and I wanted to be an infantryman. So he kicked me out of his office and uh, and I went away for a bit longer and then join back up as an infantryman went off the polka and instead of buying a villa, Say that 96 97, That was 93 92, Holy Ship 92, I went to join 93.

I eventually eventually joined the army 92 May. I was seven years old man. No, I was loving it. I think it was like one of the talk about some of the lessons I've learned in life. And uh, and that was still to this day, one of the biggest ones where I had this moment of clarity where I thought, you know what, I probably should get a job. Everyone was telling me, Um, get an apprenticeship because it will be a skill, you'll have your whole life. And in the end I just, I'd rather do this other thing though. I'm just going to go and do the thing that I want to do and not the thing that I should do. And because even 17 year old me just because I don't want to be old and have this regret that I never tried this infantry thing that that I was interested in. It probably wasn't that I didn't consider the challenge of going to war on operations when I was young. But what I was interested in the challenge of was the hardship in life.

It was probably out of the Vietnam novels that I was reading where guys are carrying heavy packs up mountains and living in the jungle and the rain and it was the hardship that I thought would be challenging in the infantry. So that's kind of why I did it. And yeah, as you said, capitalizing on Off to One are in Townsville. Yeah, that's a great reflection mate, because I was actually going to ask, um, what made you decide to turn down the mechanic apprenticeship and joined the infantry. Um, because yeah, like there's, there's definitely something to what you just said there about guys wanting to challenge themselves and seeing, you know, the fucking hardship that these dudes are going through and going, you know what I want to be involved in that, like you've gotta have, you've got, you've got to have like a little bit of a, like your mental chip needs to be a little bit different to want to go, you know what I want to put myself in these situations, I want to test myself and I'm sure that um, just grew as you went through your military career, obviously you ended up like going for selection, making it through and we'll go into that.

But there's definitely something different about guys that decide they Want as a 17 year old. I absolutely wasn't thoughtful enough to think that the reason I want to do it because it will make me a better person, which 100% believe now, the more more hardship you can face that mentally stronger you will get and everything and you also don't want to suffer either. Like there wasn't this part of me that just wanted to go and suffer in the army doing hard things, but it was just the challenge, I suppose it's probably, you would know better than me, it's maybe not too different to a sportsman. Um you know, sets high goals for themselves, I suppose you wanted to change and you want to see, I think if you can handle it, how good you could be. Yeah, man, that's uh that's interesting, you bring that up that just sparked a thought for me is um I did a post on social media about this um probably like a year ago maybe. Um and I was talking about, you know how society these days and this is controversial and there's probably piston people off, but society for the most part it's pretty fucking week, man, you know, back in the day we lived in these tribes and we would have like a rite of passage and you know, the week didn't survive the strong survive and pass on their genes and you have a right of passage where you had to prove yourself to be accepted by the tribe, you know, and these days, like we live in this soft society where, you know, it's it's not necessarily a bad thing, but there's certain skills that are lacking and people are getting softer and people don't know how to deal with adversity, you know, so many people are really struggling with, you know, this last year, going through the pandemic because of X, Y, Z.

And I understand that however, if you look back in history, man like this is the safest time to be alive in human history, yet the way that people are acting and responding and fucking carrying on, it's like, it's, you know, the world's falling apart. So I really think there's something special too, as you said, doing something that's going to challenge you, that's going to test you. Um and for males in particular, it is like that right of passage. All right, I'm gonna fucking sign up. I'm going to join the military, I'm going to test myself. I'm going to put myself in a competitive alpha male type environment. I'm going to see where a fucking stand. Yeah, I said, I'm a girl. I'm a big believer that growth comes from when you outside your comfort zone. Life for us in Western societies is comfortable. I'm not a big money person. I don't chase money. And without that, as a, as a drama, we don't have a lot of survival issues. I'm a big believer. I'm a big fan of quote by Bruce lee, don't pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to be able to endure a difficult one because if you are able to endure a difficult life when you finally get to the end of it whenever that might be, you'll be a better person than you otherwise would have been if you just, you know, everything was handed to you on a platter from start to finish.

So yeah, yeah, that's brilliant man. I want to piggyback off that as well and add my favorite quote, which is the greatest gift that you can give someone else is the ability to deal with adversity. Yeah, I love that man. Alright, cool. So you went through your, um, went through the polka basic soldiers training, then transition into its initial employment training, Singleton, which is the School of infantry. Um, and then got posted to the battalion. One area where was one area in Sydney at the time. Was that no, in towns and towns in Townsville, the battalion had sort of come back Xander 93 Um, started 90 for that Christmas period. I sort of arrived up there. So the battalion had come back from Somalia, you know, our soldiers, we love our operations. It kind of would have been nice to have got their year earlier. Um, but that actually doesn't take away that it was a phenomenal time to get to one our, our, I got to a battalion that was full of operational experience.

Soldiers say, you know, I think arguably couldn't have had a better introduction and training was surrounded by phenomenal mentors to teach me how to be a soldier, you know, to start getting that experience post training, It was a phenomenal time to get there. So yeah, charlie company, a platoon spent a a couple of years, there was a they just introduced I think around the Somalia era that second minimal to the sections. So I got the number two minimum and told to go down the back of the section and that's a machine machine for people listening. I'm told to go down the back. There's a number of people that listen, there's coaches, there's um you know, some of my clients as people from all over the world listening man. So I'll try and uh speak layman's terms for them as well. Now just for the audience, Somalia was an interesting one. We were there as peacekeepers essentially um with the U. N. Is that correct?

I believe. So it was I wasn't didn't go, but it was american led operation um un sanctioned and they were there to assist with delivering of aid and a lot of things. You know, that was huge starvation problem in the country at the time. Yeah. And just to give a little bit of context for the listeners. Um Somalia was kind of a weird one because you know, a lot of the local militia were, you know, fucking hacking people to death and basically taking over these aid posts and you know, keeping all the food and um stores and everything for themselves and like the the greater population were fucking dying in the streets, man And you know, there was all this crazy stuff going on and the Australians were there as peacekeepers and you know, they were seeing like people being hacked to death in the streets with machetes, but couldn't do anything. Like their rules of engagement dictated they weren't allowed to fire, they weren't allowed to use force.

And you know, that caused a lot of issues for a lot of those guys coming back as well. Right? Uh Yeah, possibly. I haven't seen a lot of that. Um I haven't seen a lot of those guys having issues, I suppose when I arrived at the battalion, as I was saying, like, it was a pretty professional infantry, light infantry, air mobile sort of battalion and they were still pretty focused on on their soldering. It was impressive. That's also another good point is like I spoke to the Swiss Eight boys, um probably like six weeks two months ago. Um And that's I read some research recently um where, you know, a lot of guys don't really, they don't really have issues. And then around about that 10 year mark after they got out or after the after that event, that's when signs of PTSD and anxiety and depression and things like that start creeping in, man. So I can imagine those guys have just come back from a deployment as you said, man, they're young dudes right there, young guys, they're fucking excited, they're Australian soldiers, they're being deployed to do their job on a peacekeeping mission.

But then getting back to Australia, they're like, all right, well, that was just, that was what it was. They didn't really give it any thought. Alright, let's train up for the next deployment. Let's let's keep growing Exactly. So that probably I think that's where a lot of the issues start coming in is where, you know, years down the track where guys don't have their purpose, that purpose and they are sitting with their thoughts a little bit more. They're not focusing on that personal professional growth, that's when issues start creeping in. Um So from there, mate, you spent a number of years in in the battalion and then decided you want to give special forces a crack talk to me about that decision. Uh and that process and then we'll go through um some of the greatest challenges through the training process. After I finished that section, Gunner, I went up a little bit in senior already, I became the lead scout for the section and then that led me to do a brake on course. Um Go from working in 10 and 30 man teams down to five man teams and after I spent 12 months in the recon platoon working in smaller teams.

I then moved to the sniper section. So just working now in pairs at the end of my time in the Patane, I looked back and I don't think I had this mad desire. like some people have to go and do special forces selection for me it was more of a natural progression. Everyone that I worked with all my peers. A lot of the mentors that I had had had done the selection. Some had been selected to become operators and state and some had come back. So I just again saw it is that well I might give this a crack I suppose um you know I might go to this challenge to go see if I'm up to it and basically see how I get on infantrymen as you know like pretty fit little creatures. Anyway so I kind of did the training program they gave me and just and went off to Western Australia for the selection calls. So you never had like a mad desire to become an operator. It was just a it's interesting you say that man because I kind of had a very similar journey much much later 2006 I joined um went to Iraq was the lead scout in my section, went over to recon, was doing O.

J. T. S. And then did my snipers course um went to East timor, went to Afghanistan and you know I've got a number of mates that uh you know in commandos in essays and they're like why didn't you go S. F. And I was like well one I achieved everything that I wanted to in my military career as a sniper. Like you're one of the best soldiers in the battalion and that next progression is to go special forces, you know? So um I totally understand where you're coming from there, man. Um let's talk about that process, How difficult was it to go through that training, because the reason I ask this is because as you said, it wasn't like a mad desire for you, You've got some guys that join with their whole intent of going special forces, like that was my intent. When I joined, I was like, I'm going to go to the battalion, I'll spend a couple of years there, hopefully gonna couple deployments, get my knowledge, experience, skills and then apply special forces and then I got to that crossroads and I was like, I've kind of achieved everything that I wanted to, you know, so I'll go down this path of discharge, but you know, when you're making that decision and you're like, you know, this is the next progression.

Some guys are just hell bent man and they're going to do whatever is necessary to um to make it in, whereas you're just like, I'm not hellbent on this, however it is the next progression, so I'll give it a crack, how do you think that mindset affected your ability to perform in the training leading up to that, but also on the selection course. Yeah, it was pretty driven, don't get me wrong, like I but it was came probably out of curiosity a lot more than anything else. Um The train the training for selection, I didn't find difficult dumb. 40 and 50 clicker pack marches in the Battaini. I've done recon courses, you're spending days in the field with heavy packs, walking. So the training program, I just followed the training program that the essays recommended is what we recommend you do. So for me, I identified a few areas that I was probably a bit weaker than others. I wasn't a great swimmer even though I had grown up in the water around to see. So I hit the pool and practice my swimming.

I worked hard. There's a few actual skill based things that they recommend you come to the course one for my course was morse code. Um So I was practicing the hell out of stuff like that. I just did as much as time would allow me to do and prepared myself as well as I could. Once I got on the course, the curiosity of seeing what it's about at the other end and yeah, what's behind, what is all this stuff that you won't tell us about. I want to, I'm interested to see what it is and I'm pretty stubborn too when you're going to have people on the course telling you that you're not performing so I'm able to get over that I suppose with relative ease where I'm able to shut that out and not let it affect my performance too much. I had to do. You do a lot of testing. There's quite a few things that you do have to pass like a 20 kilometer pack march online, you had to do three hours 15.

I passed most of there was a 3.2 running battle order with your rifle and combat sort of equipment. They are always hard. So I trained for those a lot. I wasn't always a fast runner. An interesting thing for those that run. When I first did selection, the army was 97 the army had just gone from a five K basic fitness test to a 2.4. And so The army said this is what the past mark, this is what the past time is for this 2.4 run, but the Ss wanted to have a high standard basically, but they didn't know what they should set that standard app. So on my course they set the standard for nine minutes, you have to pass this 2.4 run in nine minutes, 2.4 km, yep. Holy Fuck that is flying Man, I wasn't too bad. Like in training I could get an 8:45 pretty regularly, but obviously on the day it's you're getting tested, it's now day three, day four, you've been working pretty hard for a few days, the first run I did, I literally cross the line at nine minutes and one second.

So I failed the B. F. A. Had to do a re test the next day and scratch through. Fuck that's crazy man. I think my best ever time was like 8:20 Or something for a BFA. And I was I was always around about that nine mark. But you know, I was relatively fresh, hadn't been hammered for a couple of days before and It was that 20 is fast. You just did your best. Like I was on the course I just, all the physical stuff. I just did my best probably the hardest, hardest stuff I found on the course was the sleep deprivation and the lack of food. So you're still trying but you're still working pretty hard for three weeks and then they stop feeding you towards the end, You start to get pretty lethargic and yeah mm hmm. Something I wanna talk about is mental resilience. So you mentioned earlier that you found that you were okay when, because like selection is quite well known for what in my circles for people berating you and just telling you you're not good enough, you're a piece of sh it you're never gonna make it And that fucking breaks people man that can break people, you know?

But then you've got guys like yourself that was just like whatever water off a duck's back. Like where did that mindset come from? Where how did you build that mental resilience to not let other people's opinions and words affect you even though you were tired, even though you were being beaten down, even though you know you were fucking being put through the wringer. Yeah, there's sort of two big areas there where they will give you that negative feedback to try and make you fail. And even having gone back as an instructor a couple of times, I often found that that negative feedback would yes, it might de motivate people sometimes, but it's actually not as often made people quit more often, it would motivate people. The harder one I found was the no feedback when someone did something and they're either looking for, is it having done a good job, have I done a bad job and you give them nothing um That was the thing I found that then the conversation started in their own head that they're doing start planting those seeds.

Yeah, I was also pretty good with my own head like it might have been because it hadn't have been this lifelong dream of mine to get there. I was just there for the experience and out of curiosity to see if I was good enough. So in my own head I just kept doing the best I could do. So um I think if you're not doing your best, that's when um that negative self talk can start to eat you up, but if you are like, and you know in your own mind, I'm giving this everything. I've got my best effort um Then you saw I stay pretty comfortable with what do I made mistakes on selection? Course. I remember one night I sat down for a rest on a box and I had to get a night checkpoint. I literally sat down for a rest. I was that tired, I just fell asleep on the ground like a pack on my back and everything is still and I woke up a couple of hours later, but I've eaten up time.

And and so that night I never got awarded a night checkpoint uh the next day and the next night I just had to work, You know, 10 times harder to make up to the error that I've made. So I think just yeah, for me on selection, just Mhm. David my best I suppose. And I think if I had failed it, if I had have got booted off or I haven't got to the end and they didn't want me I wouldn't have gone home with regret because I would have gone, well, I wasn't up to the standard, probably. Yeah, that's a that's a great mindset. Um and something you said there, that really makes me I think that, you know, that's something that served you having that mindset was, you know, you said that you you sat down to have a rest, you fell asleep for a couple of hours, you missed that checkpoint and then that made you go, you know what, I need to fucking bust my ass the next day to make up for that because you're not pointing the finger of blame at anyone else.

You're not saying, well they're not feeding us, they're not letting us sleep, they're not blah blah blah blah. Like the work rate is too high. You're like, I fucking made a mistake, I need to fix this. How can I make up for that? I think that's a that's an important component of psychology man. That is the difference between people who thrive and people who crumble under pressure when it comes to facing adversity. Yeah. In that example they'd set a standard on that particular day. I didn't meet their standard and I just knew that I had to lift my effort work right up to the standard that was required. Unfortunately, at the end of the course, that one day where I didn't meet the standard wasn't the parcel fail for me. Um it could have been. Um and if your mistake was made somewhere else, um that didn't, if I hadn't have got the chief, if I hadn't made a mistake again, if I hadn't got the check points the next day or it was impossible to get two checkpoints in one night because most people just got one checkpoint per night, I had to get to the next night.

If I was if it was physically impossible for a human to do that, I wouldn't have passed. So they set the standard. The metaphor, I suppose is a that that person that wins the silver medal, if they can look back on their preparation for the race and it is as good as they can do, and they've given the actual event everything they've got and they get a silver medal, I mean they probably won't regret it, they will probably be happy that they got that far, whereas they just weren't good enough to beat uh the gold medalist on the day. So it comes back to that regret, that piece of it again, that's thought provoking because you know, a lot of people will train us using olympics as an example, you know, so many people, it's a four year cycle, so, you know, some people only ever make one olympics, some freak athletes go to four olympics, which is crazy man, but you know, if if you only ever make one olympics and you're training your entire life and you go and you compete in an event and you get a silver medal, you know, your mind can play tricks on you or it can your minds either going to serve you or sabotage you, I've seen and read stories on people that have won a silver medal and like always regretted it and I'm like, well if I had done this and I had done that and blah blah blah, and it's like, dude, you're like the fucking second best in the world, you know, it's about reframing that and going as you said, I gave it my best I did went through my best preparation.

I gave it my best shot on the day. Yeah, there were circumstances that maybe didn't line up that may be lined up for the other person, but that was the end result on the day. I need to accept that, you know, and be happy with that. Whereas other people let that um let that chew them out, man. And they live that life of what if and regret and looking back maybe I could've done this different, Maybe I could done that difference and you've got to be realistic. Like if you're standing on that silver medal spot and all you can think of are all the times you went out on the piece when you should have been training. Well there's probably room for a little bit of self reflection. Uh but if you've given it your best then you certainly need to put it into perspective. Yeah, 100%. Alright, cool. So let's start wrapping up the selection course um and move into being posted to a unit prior to that though. What was the most difficult thing on the selection course?

I've never been so fatigued. Like by the time you're getting to the end of that three weeks I actually heard um I'll call it a rumor but from pretty good sources that they cut the course I did. Um They cut short from their actual finished time that they were going to have about four hours or something because the participants started collapsing. And so the doctor went up to the chief instructor and said, hey like you're happy with the guys you've got here now. And the chief instructor sort of went, yeah, there's not a bad bunch of guys and you guys, well if you run the course to your end time, another four hours from now, you'll only have half of them left. So they, my good fortune and the other guys that were with me, they cut the course short by four hours, which is probably nothing over three weeks. But like that fatigue where people just start dropping around, they just literally passing out no food and work sleep.

Yeah, massive output, minimal input with sleep, nutrition, hydration, blah blah blah. Um Yeah. That's crazy man. I've got some, as I said, I've got some mates that have gone over west and east um and they were talking about their courses and um you know saying like how much fucking damage they did to their body, you know on that on that three week course that they were dealing with like years later. You know, one guy was like my knees were fucked like and they haven't been the same ever since. One guy was like I couldn't feel my feet for six months. Just ship like that man. So it's like it's everlasting um changes that do happen to people because you are under massive amounts of stress. Yeah and you got to have your mind set squared away to finish it, yep. Let's talk about transitioning into being posted to the unit because once you're at the unit it's not you're in you're good to go. Like you're constantly, I heard someone say it's a daily renewable contract you've got from finishing selection.

You got a long way to go. So you haven't even signed the contract yet. Once you finish selection you've been selected that they consider you trainable. So For me it was about 12 bit over 12 months maybe training cycle where then they start to teach you all the skills that they want you to have. Uh Even though I've been a selection course is like as the selection course is like as you said it's it's the interview we consider you. Yeah. Yeah that's a great way of putting it. I love that. Yeah I know some I know some guys that um I was in the unit with that went to selection, passed everything got to the end of selection course and then didn't get accepted man like that. Must have, we had to kill you bro. Two on my course it finished but didn't get selected. Um Yeah but they just the course is there to see what you're made of. Um And then from there you do what we call the reinforcement cycle which is all the courses. So I trained as a medic for a patrol.

They do medic and sick courses. Um you do demolitions and you do urban fighting and hostage rescue and unarmed combat, heavy weapons, You do dr driving courses, some people specialist as free fallers and divers eye specialist in vehicle mounted operations. So I did that. Yeah, you do a lot of courses for a fair while. Yeah. Uh and eventually get to the end of all that. I even did um I've been a sniper in the battalion as I said, but they put me on some more advanced sniping courses, which were really good. And then at the end of my reinforcement cycle, and once I passed all those courses, We're now that's right around 98. We're now starting to January 99 or whatever it was. But the regiment was looking at game to do the domestic counterterrorism, peace for the olympic games. And because I had the sniper skills and they had a shortage of snipers in the unit that was going to the olympic games.

I've got posted there and spent a couple of years doing the counterterrorism peace in Australia. That would've been a cool job, man. Yeah, super interesting. Just for the audience, Mark just spoke about the many different courses that he had to do. And this is quite typical in the military, is especially in the special forces community is like, you need to be well versed in all of these fucking areas because you could be fighting land, sea air, right? Like you those are your different insertion platforms. Those are the different um things that you need to be looking at. You need to be able to apply all of your skills in multiple different environments. And then once you do all of those courses you've got a base level across the board, then you typically specialist. Is that correct? Yeah. Some of the courses, they will tell you at the start of it. Hey, this is going to be a speciality of yours.

For me, it was the medical one. So you do a basic course and then you'll do continuation training while you're in the unit to keep those skills up. How are you selected for those courses? Do you get to apply for them or do they see that you you've got like a talent for becoming a medic or um for sniping or being a demolitions expert or whatever it might be. Like how does that come about a bit of all of the above When you're a new soldier there there will be a bit of influence for me. That sniping piece was because I had sniping background already. Um I think I became a medic because I was rubbish morse code so that you can go be a medic. I mean languages as a classic, you'll do angry language aptitude testing and depending on how people do on their aptitude testing will then depend on which language they send them to do. Um some of the other skills, demolitions for example, like everyone does demolitions and then it might just be how your career progresses over the next few years as as to whether they want you to be a demolitions instructor or something like that.

So yeah, just some of it is, sometimes time and place, other reasons will be you wanted to pursue that. Mm Sometimes you're really good at something, Sometimes they're looking at career progressions and sometimes they're just like we need to fill some spots, yep. Mhm. All right, cool man. Now you deployed a number of times. Um we won't go into too much detail here. You did get injured on one of your deployments. Can you talk to me about you and you don't have to go into too much detail here but share as much as you feel comfortable, what was your injury? How did it occur and what were the circumstances leading up to that? And then from there we'll transition into how you dealt with that injury and what occurred after that. I'm happy to talk about it. The familiar post, that Sort of 2000 period where I spent a lot of time in Sydney did a deployment to timor and then I did a 2002 deployment to Afghanistan.

Um and then coming back from that actually considered discharging from the military, I thought I had a pretty reasonable career achieved the goals that I wanted to do. And I took long service leave and spent Roughly 10 years under your belt by that stage. Yeah, I've been in about 10 years, probably little bit longer. And and while I was on that long service leave I kind of just came to the decision point that no, actually this is Who I am and what I want to do and my mates are still fighting and I want to go back. Um so that was the getting blown up by. The idea you're talking about was in 2007. I kind of thought that I knew at the time what I was getting myself into and I've got a bit of experience behind me I suppose as a young digger been to Afghanistan already. You know, I certainly didn't know in that early 2002 what it was like to fight in that full blown conflict, so to speak because that was just a few scam matches earlier.

But that was just kind of kicking off and and and it was fairly, you know, Australians were like only just entered into the global war on terror, so to speak. Um and you know, it was still kind of new right? And that too, that we want In 2006, yeah, 2002, we chased it. We chased a few bad guys around, we chased a few criminals around, we took a few wrong turns and drove through mine fields. A lot of our Taskings then was more to do with um strategic long range reconnaissance for my for my unit for mobility guys that I was working with. So we spend a lot of time in the field talking to locals and sending a report back reports back into um sort of the coalition system. The minefields that you drove through. Were they planted by the taliban or was this? Yeah, left over from the Russians? From the, from the Soviets. Okay. That I talk to people sometimes about evolving mindset when you're immersed in a And an environment.

So towards the end of that 2002 trip because of being so comfortable with risk I suppose because there was a lot of risk, good minds mind feels then just driving around the country, we're going to places we haven't been to a lot and they were leftover Russian, mine tunes everywhere. Towards the end of that trip I would walk into mine fields to go to the toilet and not be harassed by the locals to get some peace and quiet basically. Um and that's kind of getting comfortable with risk I suppose, which you've got to yeah, there's a difference between becoming comfortable with risk and just being fucking complacent accepting risk because you have to get the job done and yeah, that's something that will probably transition to but yeah, sorry, continue on like what happened from there then You you yeah, was a lot different. We were operating now just in Uruzgan province and we're fighting bad guys basically.

We're trying to take over and take charge. Right at the end of the trip we've been operating, we're actually heading. It was our last task and we were heading back to TK after we'd finished it and on the return trip back to TK, we were crossing over some mountain passes and we damaged a few vehicles after we damage those vehicles, we were sort of static on the top of the mountain trying to get them fixed and I knew that we had to drive back down through a valley before we got to some open country, which was more favorable to vehicles. More options are not being channeled. Yeah, we were being channeled and it was I was actually a concern, heavily concerned that we could get ambushed and they could put IEDs in the road. And so I said to the boss, the troop commander who was in charge, I'm of the opinion, let's not just wait on the top of this hill till we got these cars fixed, I'll take my patrol and we'll punch forward clear some of the ground. The boss said to me, you know, I don't want you getting too far ahead though.

So once you get to this location and I'll get you to stop there. So I drove forward with my patrol had a couple of cars and we had some quad box with us. Actually drove forward to the point where the troop commander and said don't go any further than that we stop there mm. While we were waiting there, a guy came walking out on the road towards us in front of us. So it's a really narrow valley, maybe it's 50 100 m wide with a dirt track in the middle of it and a bit of a creek line on one side with some high ground around. And as it ran away from us for a couple of 100 m, the valley sort of turned to the left And went off into dead ground where you couldn't see. Um so this guy 150 m away, he came walking up the road towards us out of the dead ground. And I can still remember this day at that moment when you can you're watching someone and then you well I care on the back end.

Next I saw the moment when he spotted us and it's like you're walking on your kids and catch and doing the wrong thing. He had that look of surprise on his face and real concern. I actually remember him like he was carrying a big box, like a big cardboard box or something. And so he sort of sat the box down on the ground and he sort of got down like he was trying to do his shoes up, which was odd because they very rarely wear shoes with shoe laces, they're all slip on shoes and I could kind of just tell that you know he didn't expect us to be there, he'd been sprung, he was now trying to think of what to do. Um and he picked his box up and sort of did a left turn and started walking away from us but off the road now changed his mind and changed his direction. I think in hindsight probably thought about just shooting the guy. Like in my mind I was that certain that he was dodgy but he wasn't I couldn't identify a weapon, he was carrying a box with him.

So I turned to the driver and I said let's go let's drive down there and apprehend that guy will go get him so we can question him and you know work out what's going on. The driver started the car up and we went to roll forward or we did roll forward maybe 30 cm and we've been parked on top of the id. So oh yeah it just went off when I tell people about the story like the thing that I remember most vividly which a lot of people in those high threat moments, you know when you think you're about to die, remember that time slowing down. Like I can really remember time slowing down. I can actually recall the dust coming up and literally engulfing me the dirt from the road after the bomb went off and because we had open cut vehicles, I can remember getting ejected out of the RPV, the big Six World Patrol vehicles. So I was now flying through the air, looking back At the car and this like this seven ton combat vehicle now a couple of meters off the ground, I can see it off the ground.

So eventually I just landed and tumbled down the creek line and came to a to a stop. I was probably about On 20 m from the carousel is like, I'm flying a long way through the air uh and I thought to myself, you know that this could be the start of an ambush, you know, they could have positions in the hills, I need a weapon to defend myself. So I looked at the car to where my rifle was normally sitting beside my seat and the rifle had come out and was lying on the ground, The car had come back down and bounced and landed and the fuel cells have been ruptured, there's a couple 100 liters of aircraft fuel leaking out of the car. I went to get up to go and get my rifle and I couldn't stand up, kind of couldn't feel my legs. Um and so then I basically got my pistol out of my holster. Well, I got my pistol and blown out of my holster, I sort of dragged it in and on its lanyard and sat there and waited for the excitement to start. And by this stage the team members behind me started to put out security and Medicaid come and got me too see if I was alive and and from there there was no ongoing ambush after that.

They medevac me out probably because you sprung them and they didn't have, they didn't have a chance to get in a position to lay a complex ambush. Yeah, that's the possibility. I mean, I've had people say to me in the past, why didn't you have the sniffer dog on the road? We had a sniffer dog with us that day and yeah, arguably maybe I should have made that decision to have that dog. But then potentially the fact that we got into location so quickly. Maybe we, we were inside their decision making process and we defeated them setting up a complex ambush Unfortunately for the as the detection dog and his handler. So there was another IED in the road a bit further down and the dog got killed finding the next I'd but myself and the driver got knocked out and no one got killed that day. So the rest of the trip got back be delayed a bit and then what happened? You ended up getting sent back home there. You had fairly serious damage to your spine.

Yeah, so I can press some facet joints of the vertebrae in my lower back around the lumber region But the thing that was most memorable for a long time afterwards was the damage that the shockwave of the explosives did. So from my neck to my ankles. I was like purple and massive swelling initially right through my whole body. So the reason I couldn't walk to begin with was because of the swelling in my body and the swelling around my spine was compressing My spinal cord. So that only took a couple of days to go down. I could sort of then limp around and after the bruising started to go away. So you're sort of talking, you know, 4-6 weeks or so. Well then just started getting back into it I suppose back onto the horse. I was in the gym and working with physios and doctors to get going again. So get back to work. Are you still affected by that occasion? And that damage that was done in that explosion physically.

I carry injuries from my military career, I've got a pretty stiff back, I gave a stiff neck. Is it from that? There is a comparacion shooting, is it just from carrying a pack 20 years. Um it's hard to attribute to one thing. Yeah, getting blown up by an IED in the road is not good for you. I can tell you that much. I don't doubt that. But yeah, as you know, an infantry career, for you know ended up doing 18 years in the military Uh or thereabouts, it's hard on your body, you know, I take my hat off to some of my peers who are still in, you know, they're hitting 25, 30 years now. Like that's an impressive amount of time. I'm sure they don't train like they did 15 years ago, but it takes, I'm sure that that job just takes its toll on your body. Yeah, man, Now I believe you were involved in a very famous, uh, circumstance where Mark Donaldson was awarded the victoria cross.

Is that correct? No, you wasn't. Uh, my mistake wasn't there then my mistake. In actual fact, that incident where I got blown up, we were returning from the area where bono one sbc um, and a swagger guys got medals because they did a phenomenal job to stay alive. It was about 10 months later, they went back up to the same area, we've just been the Badlands are now you did a number of deployments after that. I went back three more times. Is there any significant events that happened that you're willing to talk about? Um, that occurred on those deployments where guys were just fucking doing their job stand up dudes that were highly awarded or had a significant impact on that deployment or uh, that operation. Yeah, I don't talk about medals too much.

I think everyone that I ever knew, they got awarded medals for their war service. Absolutely, 100% deserve them, um, from my experience, I think they probably got awarded a few more because the amount of guys that went above and beyond what would be considered their duty, I suppose. And when I noticed still humble today, like that's the thing, that's, that's humbling. I believe those guys, I think my last deployment was affected me is not the right word was It was memorable for me because it was so different. I've seen such a transit change from 2002 On my first deployment to Afghanistan to 2013 when I was on my last military deployment to Afghanistan, like the actual living and existing in the environments that we needed to do our job.

It was hard enough, let alone catching bad guys and trying to defeat an enemy there. We were fighting on a daily basis for me. I never personally fought in any big battles or anything like that, you know, a skirmish I suppose is a good way to describe it probably hundreds, a lot of skirmishes and some of those ones. In that last trip, we were trying to catch the enemy hierarchy. So we were finding where they were and we were flying out and landing on them. So it led to some interesting times. I was also on my last trip, working with the Afghan partnering force. So it was interesting to go out and getting gun fights with guys that you could have your training and mentoring because I mean that's what my job was over there was to, you know, as part of the omelet teams, the operational mentor liaison team that we're training the Afghan National Army security forces to essentially be able to take control of their own country and provide their own security for their own people.

And I found that usually rewarding. Yeah, yeah, you said that you weren't involved in any massive battles or anything like that, but I guarantee that your role played or had a significant impact on changing tactics, strategies, providing information, um reconnaissance, um intelligence too. You know, other bigger operations because I mean, that's that's a lot of what special forces do is like fly under the radar, gather intelligence, um paint a picture essentially. So that larger forces, larger ground forces can roll in and you know, fucking take the fight to the enemy. Um and I'm sure that your roles changed over time. Well, the modern battlefield, I mean ideally no one is ever going to be involved in a huge battle. Are they? If we can shape and change the environment, I I saw like that last trip is a classic, it was, it was my job to shape and change the environment to make it better for the afghans to train the afghans military to make the areas where the afghan civilians live better you without getting myself and my colleagues killed.

That was pretty hard to do when you're fighting an enemy who's willing to die for what they believe in, arguably that was a huge success to not be involved in any major battles to always pick the timing of the choosing to try and stay ahead of the bad guys and control your environment, so to speak. I often have people say to me, you know, what are your highs and lows type thing of your time in the military. For me, they sometimes morph together a bit because those times that I look back on as some of the biggest highs were surviving some of those days, that was just the hardest days. That were the biggest lays. One of them was on that last trip. We flew out from TK um into the field to catch a bad guy. Um supposedly we thought there was going to be an enemy commander there and when we landed on the ground, I was with my afghan partnering force and I was way off on the right hand side of the army unit that I was with.

Um there wasn't a heap of this, probably about 30 of us, I suppose that got off the helicopters to go and try and catch this bad guy and on way down on the left flank, a bit of a skirmish broke out. So one of the teams down there had a bit of a shootout with a couple of bad guys went for a minute or two and then died out once we then cleared through and we're searching for the guy would come to get um one of my afghan team members came and got me and sort of grabbed me by the shirt, tried to drag me away with him and I went with him. He was you know guy that I trusted, he obviously needed, needed me somewhere else. I went with him but started to get concerned. So after I've sort of been taken 600 m off to the north of the team, the rest of the 30 guys, I was like literally starting to go, where are we going? He eventually took me into a compound and Justice dude. I kind of trusted him as a person, but I didn't maybe trust his judgment. Maybe he's like taking me the wrong way because he thinks it's the right way, but eventually got to this compound and when you know, he went inside, I thought what's in here?

I went inside and then I could see there was a few other of my afghan teammates in there. So they cleared the compound basically and I'm like, all right, what do you want to show me? I'm now thinking maybe he's got a big an imitation weapons or something like that. He points into a small little room in the corner of a mud compound and it only looked like a small room and as I ducked down and went into the door into the room, I could see it was like a wood storage room and lying in the corner was a young boy and he only looked to me, he was probably in his early teens or so. And then as I took that second look, he had an arterial bleed to his leg. So, um, straight away as you sort of jump into action basically and try and stop the bleed and saved the guy's life, I knew straight away that he wasn't an enemy fighter who was just a civilian that had been caught possibly in the contact earlier in the crossfire and it hadn't been too long ago either.

Otherwise he'd be dead because his bleed was that bad. So he's got this mad femoral arterial bleed, which I'm stuffing and you know, administering thursday. Yeah, to save his life so that they didn't finish there, we moved off a bit further and got into another contact with some more bad guys. We actually lost one of our attack dogs that day, which was terrible. The guises handler and the guys with him were lucky, lucky to survive. Lucky not to get hit by the bad guys, but you know, that dog again saved their life. I look back on that as it's one of those times in combat. Your second guest, did you do the right thing all the time because you have done a better job. Um, so you spend time, you know, evaluating your own performance. One of the dog got killed, You saw civilians get wounded. Like that was a really a really hard day. But you, I also look on that day as, As a high point for me, one I didn't get killed and two we say the life of a civilian had an effect and we got, we got some bad guys.

It was also high. There were lots of days like that I suppose. Um, and you remember them. I love how you just frame that about, you know, some of the biggest hires came off the back of the biggest lows. Yeah, I love that. You can put that perspective on it and be able to reframe that in your mind from there. You let's talk about the transition process. So you obviously did a number of, um, deployments, You spent almost two decades in the military then you transitioned. Um, what was the biggest challenge of transitioning from the military after so long and getting back into, Well, I'll let you discuss where you want to go from here. I do get this question a lot, especially these days and it's a hot topic, you know, how can we make service personnel, how can we make their transition better? And I honestly say to people look, I'm just the worst example of this. There is because pretty unique circumstance I suppose as I said before, I was going to transition way back in 2000 and 5 to 2000 and six and I just, I didn't, I couldn't, I was like, no, this is who I am.

I'm going to do be a soldier for the rest of my life. So you know, I watched my first transition potentially. I then actually after I got blown up and after the next deployment, so after my third afghan deployment, I discharged from the Regular Army, my back wasn't as good as it was prior to getting blown up. I was like struggling a little bit with fitness and in my mind I just went, I'm not the teammate that these guys are going to want anymore, I'm not going to be able to keep up, I'm going to be a liability to the team. So I had kind of, that fought in the back of my mind a little bit and also my kids, I was living in Perth working in the army of course and my kids have gone back to Tasmania and I couldn't see them coming back to Perth. So I saw the thought if I'm going to be a father and see my kids at all and coupled with This back injury, you know, I think it's time for me to get out. So I discharged from the regular army in 2009, I then went and worked in Afghanistan as a security contractor with mates of mine that I used to be in the army would say, even though I wasn't in the army anymore, it was an environment that was similar to the good things about contracting with the same as the good things about being in the military.

You're in a job that can give you, you know, it's challenging. There's some adrenaline there. If things don't, you don't go well, you're working with your mates still carrying, there's lots of similarities. So I love that environment. Then going back to the army, getting back in again on full time and contract for another three years and then eventually getting out again in 2014, going back doing more contracting By the time I got to around 2000, I won't say, oh absolutely wasn't tired of the military. I loved it and I still love the experience that I had today. A lot of fond memories from it, but I was happy that I finished, I suppose my time in the army. So around that 2,015 mark, I left I stayed in reserves for a little while, went back and it helped on a few training courses and bits and pieces, but it was pretty much done with my military experience.

I think one of the major things that also helped me to be out of, um, to make the cut was, yes, So I got out of the military, but I didn't get away from my friends. So I still have constant regular contact literally daily in some instances with my mates that I was in the military with uh Still get their advice on stuff and and you know where we can, it's been a bit hard to last 18 months, we'll get together that, you know, we'll all fly to Brisbane to go have a few beers together, you know, like we still catch up, that's been a pivotal part to it as well. Yeah, I love that man, that's that's that's super important because you know, again, so many dudes just get out and they don't really know where they're going, they don't really know what they're doing, you know, maybe they meet a girl and they start a relationship and I know so many mates that this happened to, it happened to me as well man, where you know, you meet someone and you spend a lot of time with them, you're going through that transition process um and you kind of lose contact with your mates and um you lose that purpose, you lose that self identity, you lose that tribe and you kind of, it is very easy to kind of lose your way a little bit.

But yeah, I love, I love those points that you just made their about keeping in contact with the boys and catching up and yeah, it's almost bigger than that, like you just said, people feel like they lose their tribe, I will say to people like, you know, you haven't lost your tribe, like you're one of us whether you call it a veteran or whatever you call it, it doesn't even have to be a veteran, there's people in my tribe that aren't veterans either, but just those like minded people. Yeah, absolutely. I think your environment and the people around you is very important. And again man so many dudes just kind of like drop off the radar a little bit and they lose that contact. The worst thing you can do I think is cut away from everyone. Let's talk about how you transition your skills from your time in the military to then what you decided to do with your life with your career with your work et cetera. Yes. While I was still doing the security contracting in Afghanistan so that a lot of that was flying, fly out work and do two months on a month off or something along those lines, six weeks on six weeks off on my time off.

I was living in Tasmania to be with my kids, spend time with my kids and I thought well what can I do in my spare time? I might start a little business basically where I take people Bush walking down in Tasmania. So I did that as a pretty much a hobby business. Um and we'll do a few Bush walks a year with a few clients here and there. Once I was ready to finish the contracting part. I thought to myself I might go all in on this hiking business. So I did that pretty quickly learning that, you know, I'm not a mad businessman. In actual fact, if I evaluate my little business as well, I'm going to come to the conclusion that as a bush walking guide, I can't compete with the professional bush walking guiding companies, you know, their marketing budgets, cost effectiveness of how the business runs and things like that as a little one man band, I can't beat them at their game. So then I evolved my business to be, I suppose probably more true to what I am and what I want to do and at the same time providing a different experience.

And so that's, that's what I did. I'll openly say, hey look, if you just want to go for a walk across the overland track in to see and that's the goal, then you're going to go with one of the tracking companies that just does that Yeah. If you want to go and have a life experience and an adventure that you're going to learn from and be a better person at the other end of it, not just someone that now has some photos of the overland track, but someone who's going to achieve more in life, you're going to come and do the trick with me because a lot of the topics and conversations that you have on your podcast or what I take on my experiences. Um and that's what I took all the skills that I've learned in the military risk mitigation and all the hard skills, survival and all that type of stuff how to yeah, navigation and how to live in survive in difficult environments. Put that in my new job and then I actually took some of the skills that I learned doing diplomatic protection, so how to take care of a client, not how to take care of them, so that you just get them from A to B, but how to teach them how to take care of their self as well.

You know, looking after people skills and the military skills that I have. And so now not only take people trekking in Tasmania, but we'll lead expeditions around the world and as well as taking people just for an adventure experience that they can, they can grow through and be a better person at the other end I do, we'll do trips with clients that have a purpose towards their trips. I've taken university researchers overseas to remote locations. I've worked with, worked with energy companies. I've worked with adventure travelers and now like on this podcast and in the last 12 months I suppose just started myself delving more into social media and YouTube and things like that. That's been great for a few reasons. One, it's, it's good for business to tell people that you're in business and to um it's hugely challenging for me because I just had a 20 year career where you weren't allowed to tell anyone you existed. So then too, to do a podcast like this, I actually find quite challenging.

Yeah, I remember talking to you in uh in Hobart one day, I think we went for coffee and I was talking to you about what was happening. And I think you're kind of going through that transition period from going, you know, private security, into your hobby job in quotation marks. And you were talking about, hey, I want to start this. I want to, I want to, you know, get people to get helicoptered into a certain location, get dropped off. All right, let's figure out where we are. Let's bring out a map and a compass. Let's go some map to ground. Let's look at reference points. Let's look at features, Let's figure out where we are. Then this is where our checkpoint is. Let's go for a hike through the, through the wilderness. Let's make our way down to this river where there's going to be some canoes waiting for us. Then we're going to canoe down the fucking or kayak down the, you know, down the river to another checkpoint. That's where we're gonna make um you know, that's where we're gonna make our camp for the night, We're gonna search for food and blah blah blah and I was like, man, that sounds fucking sick, is that kind of um like an overview of what you ended up doing or I'm sure it changed over time.

Um so the big difference from some of those early thoughts that I had some of those early ideas that I had was that they would have been a certain amount of script to that. Whereas some of the stuff that I actually run now, it's unscripted, it's getting the balance right between having a goal and going for the gold but not having to literally navigate from A to B. So for example, I did a hike with a client across Israel and so our goal was to walk across Israel. We were going to start at the most northern point and finish it the most southern point. Like it's a pretty big undertaking. It's over 1000 kilometers and there's a lot of logistics problems to solve between Point A. And Point B. But we solve them as we did it and so then they exploit the right I know personal hype, We've had a phenomenal experience. I had a phenomenal experience just doing the problem solving and things that happened along the way and how we got from A to being in a sort of a five week time frame and adaptable flexible process.

Well you'll never, I'll never forget like, and I've had some great experiences in my life and some memorable experiences and, and I now will try and show people how to do that. You know, I've got another, another client who I took on a few trips to cambodia and Vietnam and she kind of doesn't get me to take her away anymore. I trained up enough that she, she's happy to travel to locations that are not too high risk myself and I like you. There's a lot of personal satisfaction in that. Like that's phenomenal. But it's not just come and I'll take you somewhere so you can get your instagram pic man. You taught us some fucking life skills, You'll be a better person at the end of it. Yeah, that's amazing man. Yeah. Um just to start winding up the episode. The last question that I asked all of my guests is the following, the name of the podcast is live train perform and that stands for live life to the fullest. Train to your potential and perform at your best.

What does that mantra mean to you? Oh. Mhm. Live life to the fullest, I suppose for me is um like right back to that 17 year old kid who was like, should I be a motor mechanic or can I run around the bush and shoot guns? Um you know, you've got one shot at life, who knows how long it's going to be um whatever stage you get to the end of it, like having the least amount of regrets is living life to the fullest I think. So that if you seize those opportunities or moments or build those opportunities and moments so that you can do things in your life that are memorable like that to me is living life to the fullest, even to the next phase I suppose is to doing something greater than just yourself if when you die, other people are talking about you in a good way, once you're gone, that's that's life lived to the fullest potential would reframe the term potential.

I'm not a big fan of live life to your potential because your potential is endless, It's not defined. The more you can study and the more knowledge you can acquire and the more you can learn and hard skills, the more you can train to improve them, the better off you're going to be, the more experience, like I'm a big fan of gathering experiences as you know, so the more experience you can gain in life, where where does your potential end? It's only going to end, where you want it to end and perform at your best I suppose is the best way to do it is to go back to those swiss eight points that you had, you know, if you put nutrition into your body and you're getting some sleep and you're doing some some training and you spend a little bit of time on your mindset and your philosophical and you're trying to understand who you are and what you're on your purpose and your passion and and you're building you know, a bit of tenacity into yourself, like you're going to perform at your best, I suppose.

So yeah, go back to those swiss eight points that you had a good love that mate, I really appreciate your time man, thank you very much for sharing your story, your experience, all of your links I'll have in the show notes, so if anyone's interested in reaching out to mark and maybe booking a tour with point assist, then get onto that could be life changing. Mark, thank you very much for coming on the podcast brother, it's been an absolute pleasure to talk to you again and to be here. I'm trying to do more of this on actually getting into a bit of public speaking now because I love sharing experiences and talking to people like yourself. So, point point assist, you can find me, look me up to your message. Thank you very much. Thank you. If you enjoyed this conversation, please make sure you share it with your friends and family, gives a tag on the social media um any five star ratings and reviews are much appreciated, much love guys, Peace

Former SAS operator Mark Direen
Former SAS operator Mark Direen
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