Episode 6

Casey Nixon

Straight out of grade 12 and at age 18, I joined Army as a PTE Soldier. I spent the next 90 days at Kapooka adapting to military life and absolutely loved every minute of it. After my initial training I went to Bandianna VIC for my IET training. From there, I got posted to 1 Combat Signals Regiment at Robertson Barracks, Darwin. I worked in logistics until I discharged in 2017. I was a reservist at 20 STA when I moved back to Brisbane after my discharge but now am an inactive reservist.

Steve Price: I'm Steve price. I'm proud to be an Australian ambassador for wounded heroes, the first responders to our homeless and at risk veterans providing emergency solutions right across Australia.

Martin Shaw: They're starting to sell furniture and they're starting to sell engagement rings. They're Hocking their medals. They're Hocking the PlayStations for their kids to keep a roof over their head.

Steve Price: Yeah. Year round wounded heroes provides these emergency solutions with no government funds.

Martin Shaw: We just noticed there was a need for that immediacy of crisis funds, immediacy of being able to operate within one hour, 10 minutes, 15 minutes to do get food on the table, electricity to get some rent pays. So they're not being evicted. And they saved my life, man, and they work tirelessly seven days a week without any help. You know, they're running on the smell of an oily rag and they, they get there on time hero.

Steve Price: Welcome to our latest veteran of the day podcast for wounded heroes. Of course the Queensland based not-for-profit that assists so well for veterans right around Australia to get back on their feet after service and a bit of a first today, as you all know, I'm an ambassador for wounded heroes and very proud to be. And our veteran today is also proudly. An ambassador for wounded heroes are Casey Nixon grew up as the daughter of a veteran, signed up at the tender age of 18 and absolutely fell in love with military life. She now works at a senior level in defense industries and she joins us today. Casey, welcome.

Casey Nixon: Thanks for having me.

Steve Price: Often we find in these cases that, uh, young people join the military because they grew up in a military family. I mean, obviously your father was a military person. Um, was that an influence on your early age?

Casey Nixon: Cool. How could it not be? Uh, yeah, so my, my dad joined the army and did 28 years of service actually. Yeah, 28 years.

Steve Price: Wow. What sort of area the military was he in?

Casey Nixon: Uh, firstly he started off as an infantry soldier, then he was a parachute instructor and retired or got out of the army as a signals officer.

Steve Price: So did that mean you were, uh, as a youngster on the move all over the place?

Casey Nixon: Uh, no, he's actually my stepdad. So we met him in 2000 just before he discharged from the army.

Steve Price: And what was it about the stories that he told you that made you think, I think that's for me because at 18 you went straight out of school, I guess

Casey Nixon: I did. And it was before then actually my vision or my goals to join the army started as a cadet when I was about 14 years old. So I knew from a very early age that I wanted to join the army. I think it was, you know, the teamwork and the mateship were really, a little bit at the discipline as well. I do respect that a lot. So I think it was that influences in those stories that he told me that made me want to join the army and do something a little bit more exciting with my life than my staying around where I was at the time

Steve Price: When you joined at 18, where, and the group that you joined with when you signed up, what was the percentage between males and females back then?

Casey Nixon: I think there was probably when I enlisted, there was maybe two females as I got on the bus to go off to good old Kapooka. And in my platoon of about 50 there was 4 I think, 4 females out of 50 soldiers.

Steve Price: Was that daunting?

Casey Nixon: It wasn't it like that at all. It was more about getting in and getting everything done and everyone supporting each other. It wasn't a male or female based activity or no one looked at us like that. I don't believe anyway. So it was good to be able to, you know, share those experiences with the other females going through. But I don't think any of us felt that it was created in, in that gender way.

Steve Price: And were you treated respectfully by your, your fellow trainees.

Casey Nixon: Yes, of course. Always.

Steve Price: That's good. Because we do hear bad stories about those issues, but obviously it's not in your experience that didn't happen.

Casey Nixon: That's correct. Unfortunately, sometimes these things do happen. But no, I definitely not with our platoon. I think everything was smooth sailing for us and that, you know, the gender didn't even come into the equation, to be honest.

Steve Price: If you go back to that, the, the time when you decided to do this and you sign up at 18, what was your, did you have a long-term goal on what this would mean for you in terms of a career? Or did you just think this is, I need this for me, this is going to be good for me right now and not think much about like most 18 year olds, don't where it's going to lead to.

Casey Nixon: I did actually have a long term goal so I wanted to sign up as, as an officer. You know, about my dad being a bit of a grunt back in the day, told me that I would get more respect from the soldiers if I started as, a private and, and then went back through either ADFA or RNC. So it was supposed to be a long-term goal for me. But after two years I decided that I had had enough of the, military life last going away all the time and that I could work in an office and still support defense in a way that, you know, made me feel proud.

Steve Price: What was basic training like?

Casey Nixon: It was great. I'm probably a different person when it comes to that question Steve, I really thoroughly enjoyed basic training. Probably not at the time,I remember that was a couple of times when I called my mother and said, who needs to come home? I can't do this anymore. And she told me to wake up to myself and kick on, which was what I needed a little kick in the butt, but I really enjoyed it. And I always say to people, if you get the chance that you're going to need to go and do it and these experiences are something that you don't get to encounter anywhere else made me the person I am today. And I would go back and do it in a heartbeat.

Steve Price: Just makes you wonder. And I've often thought about this and often express this opinion that perhaps, you know, like some other countries around the world, you know, a 12 months stint or a bit longer in, uh, in a training program. Like that might not be such a bad thing for a lot more young people.

Casey Nixon: I agree with you. I definitely agree. And my daughter and my step son would probably hate me for saying this, but, yes, I do think that that would be amazing for young people, to do that, that headstart on life, give you some direction and, and goal setting for the future years to come.

Steve Price: So what do you still apply from that training period of two years, to the way you, you live your life?

Casey Nixon: I think every day, essentials for life going forward, you know, discipline getting up every morning and making a bed with my hospital corners. But really that mateship and the leadership skills that I learnt in defense as well, moving forward. And I think that's been a big part of my career in defense industry is, both those qualities.

Steve Price: So you now work at a senior level, uh, in the defense industries, but once you've completed your two years, you're still a 20 year old. How did you get into defense industry from there?

Casey Nixon: After I left defence, I studied project management and I got in as a Project Officer entry level into Thales ,that's where we were working on the Bushmaster. I'm very proud to work for Thales, which was a nice start to my defense industry career. So studying project management and moved up to project manager and onwards working in Australia.

Steve Price: That Bushmaster is very famous globally in military circles. Isn't it? It's an A1 product.

Casey Nixon: It is. It is. And, and, yes, saves so many lives overseas and on operations, the defense. Yeah. Great vehicle. Highly recommend it.

Steve Price: And it has as you said, saved lives.

Steve Price: Yes. Every, every day overseas in operation, that's what the vehicle was built to do, extensive testing engineering and analysis went into the production of those vehicles.Yeah, very proud part of my career was working for Thales on the Bushmaster.

Steve Price: You have a particular interest and passion, I know, in the mental wellbeing of veterans who have come back, particularly those that have served overseas in conflict, and we've seen the damage that conflicts in places like Afghanistan and Iraq have done. Tell us why you're so interested in that area.

Casey Nixon: I'm very interested in that area because I can see that there is much needed support in that area. I think with all of the stigma that goes on in defense about mental health, I really like that people are now speaking up and I think that what we're doing here and now it's important to move forward with that mental health stuff. And, I needed to get involved. I needed to help soldiers. And, you know thats why I still work in defense industry is because I needed to have that little bit of green on my arm. But to be able to help soldiers after they leave defense, I think is such an important role. And, we need more people to get involved.

Steve Price: We know Wounded Heroes is doing great work in that area. Where do you think we're letting our veterans down?

Casey Nixon: I can't pinpoint an area where I think we are letting them down. The only thing that I would suggest is that the changing that stigma around mental health illness and, and making sure that we're following up with that person after they leave defence, a lot of studies have been done on that state mental health doesn't become an issue until, you know, 12 months to say 5 years after service. So that's a period where we really need to be there for our veterans

Steve Price: Veteran of the day. We're chatting to today's Casey Nixon, clearly when you serve yourself and then you work in defense industries, and I know, your partner Daniel,was a serving a very, very famous Australian serving soldier. Um, you mix with people who've been in the military, uh, when you talk amongst yourselves about, uh, the mental demons, sometimes that people bring back from conflict. I mean, how does, how does that make you feel?

Casey Nixon: It makes me want to see how we can help to do more to support veterans to be honest. It makes me sad to think that we're letting veterans down. You know these are people, these are soldiers who have gone overseas and served our country. And we need to be able to give something back. We need to be able to support them when they come back and give them what they need. So it does, it makes me upset to hear stories of people who are not doing so well and, and want to be able to help those people. So a lot of the time, when I am talking to those people I'm trying to understand how we're letting them down and what we can do to change that

Steve Price: They returned with such skill, uh, that it seems to me often, we just let that skill wither and die on the vine. We don't actually encourage particularly businesses to go and hire ex military people because of this skillset they've got, we should be capitalizing on that. Shouldn't we?

Casey Nixon: Yes, I think so. And look, there's a lot of companies out there that do veterans or do have veterans programs. So we will have goals that we try and meet in companies, especially defense industries. Uh, we have a large number of ex-military people in our organization. The organization I work for at the moment in particular, we have a lot of veterans, there which is nice to see. Um, but I do think that, um, you know, the mental health side of things is, is a big barrier and we need to work more and, and better support those sections with mental health conditions.

Steve Price: You might not want to answer this, but do you think governments understand the issue as well as they should?

Casey Nixon: I think they are trying to understand. Um, I think they are trying to understand, I think that's all I'll say on that one.

Steve Price: I think there's a few gaps. Your partner course, is, Daniel Keighran, who was a recipient recipient of a VC for his actions in battle, he's written a book about this. You must be so proud of him.

Casey Nixon: So proud, so proud of him, you know, and I, and I didn't understand, how people felt about him. We did a recent book signing for him for his book in October called "Courage Under Fire" and we had a book signing just inside our local shopping center and the amount of people that showed up to support Dan on that day and, the people coming to talk to him, I was so nervous and, and you know, some, some people crying and tears, and it's just wonderful. And it sign off to say that he's doing great things and, you know, it's, it's awesome. So proud of him.

Steve Price: I've read Daniel's book, I've also read Mark Donaldson's book. There's something special about these guys who end up, being given the highest award that their country can bestow on them. There's just something special about them. Isn't it?

Casey Nixon: I agree. Yeah. From, from the deft laws to the humble beginnings of Dan, I know all too well, we just went to his hometown actually. And it was so interesting to see where he grew up his life back then compared to what it is now. And I think that his life growing up really made him who he is today. Yeah, it's just, can't thank him enough for what he's done and, yeah, he's killing it now.

Steve Price: Very powerful. Couple and obviously that, that really helps get your name out there as an ambassador for Wounded Heroes. I think you were doing incredible work yourself and Wounded Heroes really thanks you for that. When you look at someone like Daniel, I re-read, again, parts of the book the other day about exactly what he went through, particularly on that day, you know, drawing in to enemy fire to protect his mates. I mean, it sometimes sounds trite, but the Australian spirit of looking after your fellow soldiers or mates, whether it be in combat or in, in any other aspect of life, it's so important, isn't it

Casey Nixon: Very important. Yeah. Dan and I both understand how important that is to look after our mates and make sure we're there for them.

Steve Price: What would your message be to veterans listening to us, Casey, who, are perhaps struggling a little bit with, with the mental demons. I mean, how can we help? How can we help get them over that hurdle and get them back to functioning as they should be?

Casey Nixon: I think my message to those veterans out there that may be struggling with mental health illness, or, you know, even having to sit down and just reach out to your friends. You know, that community and connection is, is outstanding and amazing people who understand what you've been through, and it's not weak, it's not weak. And we need to get rid of that stigma, not weak to stand up and say, I'm not feeling the best. I might need some help here, reach out. You know, we have Wounded Heroes Australia, we have great crisis management support. And, um, you know, I know that there's a lot of organizations out there, uh, and veterans can get confused and it creates confusion around who do I contact and which organizations do what, but I think if we, if we understand that Wounded Heroes is that immediate support, that we might be able to help some more veterans

Steve Price: Well said, Casey, it's a great pleasure to have caught up with you. And thank you very much for the work you're doing for wounded heroes. Catch up soon. Thank you. What a pleasure it's been to talk to a group of Australian veterans, please help Wounded Heroes continue its important work by supporting our Veteran of the Day Podcasts.

Steve Price: For extra information, media partnership, opportunities or program sponsorships, contact Wounded Heroes through their website, woundedheroes.org.au and direct your inquiries to Kim Dennis.

Supported by Wounded Heroes

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