Serving Down Under: Australia offers military jobs to US troops facing separation
By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 8, 2012
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — U.S. servicemembers looking at career options in this era of shrinking military budgets and force drawdowns might want to take a look Down Under.
The Australian government is recruiting experienced U.S. enlisted personnel and officers to fill a range of positions — from submariners to doctors — in its military, according to a posting on the Australian Defence Force website.
“The Australian Defence Force looks to overseas candidates to fill gaps in our Services, which can’t currently be satisfied by standard recruitment,” reads the intro for overseas applicants on the Defence Force’s recruitment website. “We recognise that these candidates can bring skills and attributes to the Navy, Army and Air Force that will strengthen their overall operation and success rate.”
The job offers could be tempting for U.S. troops as the Afghan War winds down and the Department of Defense looks to trim billions of dollars and more than 100,000 uniformed personnel from its books.
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At a time when other Western countries have slashed spending, the prosperous Australians have been growing their military. In the past five years, the Australian military has recruited more than 500 personnel from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Applicants have to meet certain minimum rank levels, as well as medical and interview requirements, Australian defense officials said in an email this week.
Known as the Lucky Country, Australia has had a booming economy for almost two decades due to rising commodity prices and strong Chinese demand for its mining products. It has also seen the Australian dollar rally against the U.S. dollar in recent years, meaning U.S. veterans — especially enlisted — stand to make more money working for the Australia military.
The U.S. Air Force website lists the annual base pay for an E-5, staff sergeant, with six-years’ service at $31,946. An O-3, captain, with six years’ service makes $63,263.
By comparison, a newly promoted E-5, corporal, in the Australian air force makes $57,277, when converted to U.S. dollars, while newly promoted O-3, flight lieutenant, takes home $66,417.
Squadron Leader Bart Langland has flown under both flags.
Langland served 15 years on active duty for the U.S. Air Force and another five in the reserves before joining the Royal Australian Air Force in March 2008. The veteran F-16 and U2 spy plane pilot is helping train Australian fliers at RAAF Base Williamtown, just north of Sydney.
From an Australian perspective the costs to train and develop fighter pilots are enormous, hence the RAAF greatly benefits from being able to get experienced pilots from the U.S. and other countries, Langland said. Joining the Australian Defence Force took Langland a year and included physical examinations, security checks and getting dual Australian-U.S. citizenship, which the State Department had to approve, he said.
Langland said the job was almost exactly the same as serving with the U.S. Air Force.
“If you walk into an Australian fighter squadron or a U.S. fighter squadron, you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference,” Langland said.
Australia has about 23 million people, less than the population of California, in a country about the same size as the U.S. Naturally, the all-volunteer Australian Defence Force is a lot smaller than the U.S. military but it has dedicated itself to quality over quantity, Langland said.
In recent months, the U.S. and Australia have grown even closer with plans to base thousands of U.S. Marines in the northern Australian town of Darwin.
“Australia has always stood shoulder to shoulder with the U.S.A. and, as such, would count on U.S. support in times of major conflict,” Langland said.
The Australian Air Force trains regularly with U.S. units, although it also trains with partner nations in Southeast Asia, he said.
One notable difference serving in Australia is that the pace of work is slower than in the U.S. Air Force, Langland said, adding that his deployment to Afghanistan last year was voluntary.
Langland’s biggest challenge was moving his wife and three children to Australia, far from relatives. However, he rated the schools near RAAF Williamtown as excellent and the weather and beaches on a par with Southern California.
The family plans to stay in Australia at least five more years, he said.
“I feel that by serving here I am making a difference to Australia and America,” he said.
For more information on the program, go to the Australian Defence Force website.
The Australian Defence forces are recruiting U.S. servicemembers to join their ranks. A look at some of the job specialities needed Down Under:
- Principal warfare officers
- Submarine warfare officers
- Marine engineering Officers
- Medical officers
- Cryptologic systems and electronic warfare specialists
- Maritime and electronic technicians
- Combat systems operators
- Range of officer roles in the aviation, artillery, engineering, dental, intelligence and signal fields.
- Range of enlisted roles including groundcrew air support, electricians, ammunition technicians, intelligence specialists and communication specialists.
- Focus on jet pilots, electronic engineers, surveillance and reconnaissance specialists.