What I wish I’d known: Barton Green

Army veteran and MBA candidate Barton Green shares why he decided to head to university after leaving Defence.

At a glance:

  • Green comes from a military family and says the 12 years he spent as an Army Commando was a purposeful and fulfilling career.
  • When transitioning out, he struggled to find a direction until he started to outline a plan for his future.
  • Green is now an MBA candidate at the Australian Graduate School of Management.
  • His advice to fellow veterans is to be patient and acknowledge their personal and professional worth.

Barton Green spent 12 years in the Army before transitioning out in 2020. He has since begun an MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management, part of UNSW Business School. He is a member of the Castle Hill and District RSL sub-Branch.

We caught up with Green to find out what he wishes he’d known about going to university and life outside of Defence before he transitioned out.

A way of life

I grew up in a military family – my grandparents all served. I naturally found myself wanting to join the Army from a young age, and I followed through after high school. I felt like I had to prove something to myself. I enlisted in the Special Forces Direct Recruiting Scheme in 2008, and that’s where I stayed for my entire career – for 12 years, give or take. In that time I was deployed overseas and domestically multiple times.

I wanted to serve in a very genuine way. I found the career very fulfilling, and in many ways I still miss it. It was more than a job; it was a way of life.

Transitioning out

I medically transitioned out of Defence. The injuries I had incurred in service, in truth, crept up like a sledgehammer. Quite genuinely, I’d intended to stay happily until retirement, so I had no plan. I wasn’t thinking about studying at that point in time. I was completely unprepared to leave.

I also didn’t know my own value. What does being a Special Forces Commando translate into in the civilian world? I think that embarrassed me because one of the fundamentals of the military is to always have a plan.

The path to study

I started to lay out a plan. I didn’t always know what I was working towards, but I put down where I wanted to go and how I needed to achieve it. I’ve never achieved anything alone, and I’m very grateful for the support I’ve received along the way.

I gravitated towards getting a university degree. Everyone else in my family had one, and I thought it was the way forward for a lot of job opportunities. Some of my skills and experience weren’t translating into jobs that I wanted to do or where I could be of service to the community. All I really knew was that I wanted to do something where I could give back.

I applied for the Wandering Warriors Scholarship at the Australian Graduate School of Management at UNSW Business School, and I’m very chuffed to say that I was awarded a scholarship. I started my degree in May 2022.

I’d love to become a manager who provides sound, impartial counsel to leaders. That’s why I’m attracted to the MBA. Not everyone needs to work at an executive level, but I want to learn how to understand governance and manage people better. I see myself becoming a manager of people. I’m driven by social impact, and I’m driven by change. I want to help people so they don’t have to go through what I went through without any assistance.

What I wish I’d known

I wish I’d known my value. I wish I’d known that I have things to offer, not just to Defence but also family, friends, strangers and certainly myself.

Never underestimate being authentic and vulnerable. Yes, some people will give you the cold shoulder, but I’ve found that most people will embrace you. You can know your value in life without ever losing your humility; you don’t need to stab anyone in the back or anything like that to get to a goal.

Be patient with yourself and with life. When you have spare time, picture yourself in the future, just like you would have as a child. Think about what success means to you. Is it money? Is it fulfilment? Is it giving back? Is it a family? Is it a home?

Then make a plan. But write it in pencil, not pen. Don’t make it concrete, because sometimes we set standards that are too high. At other times, we approach things unrealistically or impatiently, and so you can lose confidence and clip your wings.

In the future, I can see myself going into governance and public policy. I want to impart knowledge and give back to others.

RSL NSW welcomes veterans of any age to join the organisation. Access support services and become part of a like-minded community of peers – become a member of RSL NSW.