Bronsen Mitchell’s Defence transition experience

Former Army medic Bronsen Mitchell shares the ups and downs of transitioning out of Defence.

At a glance:

  • Bronsen Mitchell comes from a military family and has spent 20 years as an Army medic.
  • His time in the Army and the Army Rugby team has left him with lifelong friendships that cross boundaries of rank and age.
  • Having realised it was time to prioritise family, Brosen is currently in the middle of transitioning out of Defence.
  • He credits staying connected with peers in the mental health space as having assisted with his transition to civilian life.

RSL NSW member Bronsen Mitchell dreamed of joining Defence from a young age. After 20 years as an Army medic, he is currently in the midst of transitioning out.

Mitchell shared the valued bonds developed across two decades in active service and as part of the Army Rugby team, why he decided to make the leap into civilian life, and the support and services he’s accessed during his Defence transition.

A military family

“I was born into a military family. My grandfather was a Vietnam veteran, my father served for 31 years in artillery and my older brother joined the Army as well. So I grew up in a military environment from the moment I could walk.

“Initially I planned to follow in my family’s footsteps by entering artillery. But my dad, who was transitioning out at the same time I was applying, told me to enter a trade instead; back then there was no real civilian accreditation for artillery expertise. I intended to sign up as an avionics technician, which was what my older brother did, but then found out I was colour perception three, or CP-3 – in other words, borderline colourblind.

“So I decided to apply to become an Army medic instead – and I absolutely loved it.”

Forging bonds

“I really enjoyed my time in the Army because I met some of the best people I’ve ever met. Some of my best mates came out of there. Even one of my instructors became a mate later on in life.

“After basic training at Kapooka and nine months of medical training, I’ve bounced around a bit between Townsville, Darwin, Brisbane, Canberra and Wagga Wagga. I did two postings in each location.

“I joined an Aqua Rugby exhibition match sponsored by RSL NSW, which was aggressive but fun… We were reunited by a game we all love.”

“One of the things I’m proudest of achieving is joining the Army Rugby team early on during my time in Defence. I made the national Army Rugby team in 2005 and was lucky enough to go on domestic and international tours. I’m currently the National Manager at Army Rugby and the head coach of the women’s team.

“The greatest thing about playing rugby is that you’re all equals. You were accepted straight away because of a similar interest. Rugby was our common language. They called you by your first name, there were no ranks; I think I had a major in my room. Over the years, I networked, forged friendships and gained experiences simply from meeting other people.

“On Remembrance Day last year I joined an Army vs Navy Aqua Rugby exhibition match sponsored by RSL NSW, which was aggressive but fun. At the end of the game, we all had a laugh and swapped stories. There were some guys who hadn’t seen each other for 10-plus years. We were reunited by a game we all love.

“Hopefully it won’t take as long to be reacquainted in the future.”

The transition process

“I had joined the Army in February 2003 and was in active service the entire time. I’m currently on long service leave for the next couple of weeks, and then my official discharge date is at the start of May.

“The lifestyle of the Army, where you move around a fair bit, wasn’t suiting my wife and children. I decided it was time to do the right thing by them by putting in my discharge and settling down. My wife has sacrificed a lot so I could follow my career – it was time for me to be less selfish and start giving back!

“I went to the ADF Transition Seminar in Wagga Wagga and gained heaps of information about the services and support that were available.”

“At my final medical, my doctor said that I had abused my body too much and that we were going to apply for a medical separation. That hit me quite hard and I got emotional. You enter the Army on your own terms and you want to leave the Army on your own terms as well. It took me a while to come to terms with how I’d abused my body through contact sports and that my body was in pain.

“I think Defence is set up well to support transitioning members. Obviously, there are areas for improvement, but things are getting better. I went to the ADF Transition Seminar in Wagga Wagga and gained heaps of information about the services and support that were available. That’s where I met the Open Arms team, and from that connection I ended up getting a job as a Peer and Community Advisor at Open Arms in Maryborough, Queensland.”

What lies beyond

“The job at Open Arms has helped me with my own transition, because I’ve stayed connected with peers in the veterans’ mental health space.

“As my discharge date gets closer, the security blanket that I’ve had around my shoulders for my whole life, throughout childhood when my dad was in Defence and recently as a serving member, the blanket that has helped me and my family with a guaranteed income – that’s going to disappear.

“It’s getting a bit stressful, but I have the tools and people around me to help during those stressful moments of transition. I joined the Queanbeyan RSL sub-Branch in 2014 while I was an instructor at RMC. Even as a kid, I saw RSL NSW as a place of connection and belonging.

“To stay connected with RSL NSW was easy for me to do and very rewarding. I think it’s something that all veterans should do.”

Access support services and become part of a like-minded community of peers by becoming a member of RSL NSW.

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