Waking up to another sensational Brisbane morning, I was tingling with excitement as I put on my best suit and spit polished shoes. Today was the first day in the application process to being a pilot in the Australian Defence Force; the YOU session. Having studied everything I could find on aircraft types currently used, squadron locations, speed/distance/time calculations and much more, I felt confident of passing this first stage.
Without assumption, I walked into the well marketed recruiting centre. There were pictures of camouflaged soldiers on the walls, models of naval vessels, and perfectly groomed men and women in uniform welcoming us to this first day of testing. I was with about 30 others all applying for different roles. As we handed over our paperwork, assigned our name badges and requested to sit, one of the corporals welcomed everyone and went through what we were going to be doing that day. Our testing included a computer-based session to test maths and complex reasoning, a medical interview with a nurse, and a careers counselling one-on-one session with a corporal who would throw occupation specific questions at us and go over if we passed the first round to get the job we were aiming for. As different jobs required different levels to be attained, I was focussed on doing the best I could.
The computer based testing was straight forward, with incrementally difficult questions over a timed period. Although, my periphery picked up individuals who showed the classic signs of a mental struggle as they wriggled in their chairs and scratched their heads. I was more concerned with the medical as they could just throw me straight out due to my eyesight, rather than let me progress through testing to demonstrate my capabilities. Fortunately, the only element of eyesight tested at this stage was colour vision and corrected (i.e. glasses on) vision, both of which I passed. After a few pokes and prods and a couple of other quick tests, I went back out to the waiting area and chatted to some other candidates. I couldn’t help in over-hearing an ‘expert’ (a person who has never done or experienced what they claim to know and talk about) talk to others about why they shouldn’t select the job they were applying for or telling others how hard selection and training will be. It annoyed me as I saw one young individual, barely 18, listening to a bunch of rubbish from a much more mature candidate. I hope the young guy made it through without the dark cloud of negativity spewed across him clouding his judgement.
Finally, I was called into the corporal’s office to discuss what I came here for; could I continue my application to be a pilot with the defence force? After some basic aircraft questions and a general assessment of the Australian Defence Force, he revealed that my overall testing scores were high enough to continue to the next round; Pilot Specialised Testing. With an internal burst of joy, I thanked the corporal and was ushered to the exit. Stage one complete. Walking out of the offices, I grabbed a quick glance of the ‘expert’ still trolling for agreement from others on his perception of their applications. Fortunately, the people around him this time seemed disinterested, probably more focussed on their upcoming one-on-one interview.
There are always ‘experts’ in life. You will meet plenty of them and even see them on popular TV, from the “you should never do that” ‘experts’ to the “that’s a bad decision; I would have done this” ‘experts’. Funny thing is that these ‘experts’ who cloud your judgement have never experienced what you want to accomplish. The only way to be an expert in something is to go out and experience it yourself. Listening with a hint of caution is always good when the person giving you advice hasn’t done what you’re trying to accomplish. This is a lesson I learnt quickly throughout my pilot application and also in my training to go to space.