Brigadier Ana Duncan
Why did you join the Army?
My reasons for joining the Army at 21 years of age were varied.
As a younger school graduate, I had spent five years studying two degrees at the University of Adelaide to enter the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade graduate program. There was no epiphany to join, rather a collection of linked events.
Firstly, I was thoroughly enjoying my experiences in the Army Reserve, and I felt a great respect and admiration for the permanent Army members that I worked with. They were intelligent, principled, articulate and fit men and women, who I aspired to be like.
Secondly, I had really enjoyed leadership roles until that age in school, university and in sport, so the chance to really lead people in a profession was attractive.
Finally, I enjoyed adventure, travel and physical challenges, and I thought the Army might provide me that, more so than any other profession I was aware of.
Describe a moment or event that is most memorable during your time in the Army.
There are too many to single one out. One that may resonate with young women who are considering joining is when I was commanding my troop of predominantly male signallers in 1999 during Operation WARDEN, the UN sanctioned intervention into the fallout of the East Timor plebiscite.
While flying into a still-smouldering Dilli a young signaller on my Hercules expressed their fright and reservations at what we were about to embark upon. I was only a couple of years older than that young soldier. I remember making a joke (a bad one), if not only to disarm that signaller, but also myself, and I suddenly realised how important my role was to the men and women under my command.
As those first few difficult weeks unfolded with the TNI (Indonesian Army) still in country, on reflection, those were unnerving times. It was arduous; two of my soldiers had breakdowns early-on, which required them to return to Australia, and the affect on the troop was not lost. We worked hard, and developed strong bonds as a team. I learned a lot about leadership in those four months. That first opportunity to command on operations was a key highlight in my career.
What do you consider to be your greatest success in Army?
Funnily enough, I don’t see myself as having achieved any great individual success in Army. I really believe my journey through the various units I have served in has been enabled by my hard working and generous colleagues over the last 17 years. Those colleagues who never made me think that I was just doing a job, but that my contribution and leadership was fundamentally important.
There are many brilliant and inspiring men and women in Army at all ranks. Perhaps my contribution is as simple, yet at this stage of my career and my role as a parent I believe as important, as being a mentor for more junior women. Those young, energetic women out there who aspire to have challenging yet rewarding careers in Army, and to be mothers.
Who has been the most influential person throughout your Army career?
It has been a male officer. This person is effortlessly capable, and yet the most humble officer I have had the good fortune to serve with and learn from. He is a true leader and role model in every regard. He has reinforced in me over the years that everything you do, you do for others.
What is one important piece of advice that you can pass onto other women considering a career in the Army?
Intelligent, confident and feminine young women out there can have a truly rewarding career in Army.
I have commanded men and women, I have deployed on operations, I have travelled extensively domestically and overseas, I have been sponsored by Army to complete two masters post-graduate programs and I have been able to take long paid breaks in service to have my two children.
I have never felt as though my gender was a limiting factor in my career progression. Army is a professional way of life, that will be challenging, yet the satisfaction is tenfold, and the fun times countless.
Cross the Rubicon, and embark upon the most exciting journey of your life.
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