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Team leader – Team Army

Team leader – Team Army
Lieutenant Colonel Tom Regener is in charge of Team Army, an incentive to encourage people to learn mechanics. Team Army remains a major drawcard at motorsport events with its two rebuilt vehicles, Armygeddon and Project Digger, bringing on the action.

Lieutenant Colonel Tom Regener grew up in a family of four boys with cars always a part of the Regener household. As he tells it: “My older brother Karl had a series of Ford GTs starting with an XT followed by an XW Phase I GHTO and then an XY Phase 3 GTHO,” so naturally, the car interest was infectious. 

“Cars were always around the home and it was a lot of fun in the 1960s and early 1970s watching the older boys work on their cars. I learnt a lot about the simple basics [of cars] and as one of the younger brothers there was always work to pass tools or fit my smaller hand between a tight set of extractors.” 

At 15 Regener joined the Army as an apprentice. He remembers: “The Army had a school called the Army Apprentices School on the Mornington Peninsula, which was very similar to a boys boarding school and we attended classes each day just like a boarding school, the difference being that we were marched to and from class and conducted military training as part of the curriculum.” 

After two years Regener was posted to a military unit to complete the practical component of his trade training. After his apprenticeship Regener completed additional training to become an engine fitter on marine engines on one of the Army’s small to medium landing craft from which he developed his interest in car mechanics. 

According to Regener the Army is good at challenging people. He recalls that shortly after completing his apprenticeship he was nominated to attend Officer Training at the Officer Cadet School at Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula. 

“After graduation I held a number of appointments as a Junior Engineering Officer before being successful in a scholarship arrangement where the Army sent me off on full pay to complete a degree in business studies,” Regener says. 

“My hands on the tools became less frequent after completing my degree and I moved into higher level managerial jobs. After managing the Australian Army’s workshop in Hobart I was selected to attend post graduate studies in logistics at the United States Army Logistic Management College [Fort Lee, Virginia]. 

On returning to Australia Regener was employed in project management as the Integrated Logistic Support Officer for a number of projects introducing new equipment into the Army. 
“I subsequently shifted into a training role at the Land Warfare Centre for a couple of years before being selected to attend the German Defence Academy [Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr] to complete a Graduate Diploma of Defence Studies.” He completed the course in a forum of 32 countries. 

Back in Australia Regener managed a major Army workshop in Brisbane before being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. 

“As a Lieutenant Colonel I held a senior logistics role in Sydney managing Army’s national fleet of equipment and then relocated to Oakey in Queensland to manage the administration of the Army Aviation Centre,” states Regener. 

“While in Oakey I commenced study to complete an MBA with the University of Southern Queensland with an emphasis on project management. I was then fortunate enough to be appointed as the Commanding Officer and Chief Instructor of the Army School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, the successor to the former Army Apprentices School where I started my career. It seemed at that time that I had completed the full circle moving from the apprentice to running the organisation with a staff of some 260 uniformed, public service and contracted staff.” 

Regener points out that he had reached the milestone of completing 30 years of service in the regular Army before transferring to being an Army Reservists. 

“The reserve scheme is an excellent opportunity for the Army to retain the benefit of its investment in its people,” Regener emphasises. “When I joined the Army in 1972 there was a lesser focus on completing a university degree immediately and it was equally as common for young people to complete an apprenticeship. 

“I came from a fairly strict German family where hard work was the order of the day from a very young age. My parents were extremely strict about work ethics and it seemed a natural progression to move from a strict family background into a highly disciplined environment such as that presented by the Army. I suppose I had a sense of adventure and wanted to see and experience more than what a small country town had to offer which ultimately led me to joining the Army.”

From The First Car Toc Team Army

As his brothers were enthusiasts for Ford GTs it was only natural that Tom Regener’s first car was a Ford Capri GT with a V6 engine. “It was a great car to pull apart and re-assemble and provided a lot of enjoyment in those early years where a young man has his first affair with a seemed a lot simpler and the basics of automotive engineering were very fresh in my mind having completed a technical apprenticeship and additional training as a marine engine fitter.” 

With his ‘love affair’ of his first car a clear memory Regener comments on how Team Army came about. “Team Army probably had its genesis from what is big business in the USA. The US Army sponsors Nascar to brand the US Army across the country. 

“The US Air Force developed the Air Force X1 Mustang and the Vapor Dodge Challenger, two extreme high-tech concept cars, which have been built to primarily visit high schools across the US to stimulate interest in joining the US military. It seemed only natural that the Australian Army ‘do it better’ so the Chief of Army challenged the Army School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering to develop a car to engage with Australian youth and create awareness of technical trades available in the Australian Army. 

“The development of Armygeddon followed along with an enthusiastic group of volunteers who we named Team Army to prepare and deploy the vehicle,” Regener says. Originally it was thought that Armygeddon and Team Army would appear at Summernats once a year, however, Australia’s car enthusiasts have a huge appetite for something new and so Team Army with Armygeddon, grew in demand nationally. 

Armygeddon is a Landrover which had seen active service in East Timor, prior to the installation of a seven litre Chevrolet fuel injected supercharged engine. The vehicle was chosen for the Team as it represents vehicles in service with the Army at that time. As Regener points out the Army has now chosen the Mercedes G-Wagon to replace the Landrover as their general use field vehicles, so Armygeddon has now moved on to represent the recent history of the Australian Army with the ‘follow on’ car the Project Digger, representing vehicles used as staff cars for Generals in the 1970s. 

“Apprentices inside and outside of the Army have always had a cheeky side and it was this that inspired the young members of Team Army to show the Generals what can be done with a staff car when they are not watching,” adds Regener. 

Regener explains that due to the growing demand for Team Army across the country a decision was taken to apply some deliberate planning to ensure that the Army connected with a good cross section of the motor enthusiast industry and with an emphasis on Australian youth. Because of this Regener was asked to take on the role as a Reserve Officer and develop a business plan to support the growing demand. Team Army had its first presentation at Summernats in the January 2005 event with Regener taking on the role of Project Manager for Team Army the following August. 

However, Regener points out that Team Army was very much the inspiration of Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, AC when he was the Chief of Army. Regener adds: “He challenged the organisation to think outside of the box and develop ideas to capture the imagination of Australian youth to consider completing a technical apprenticeship in the Australian Army. 

“The delivery of Team Army is very much a team effort by a number of car enthusiasts in the Army who are simply an extension of the enthusiast community outside of Army. It is always dangerous to name individuals, but it would be remiss of me not to mention the following guys who have been outstanding leaders as chief mechanics at various stages during my time with Team Army – Sergeants Mark Ward, Brian Vaughan, Ben Hewlett, Mick O’Sullivan, Adrian Battaglia, Matt Dowd, Shayne Salau and Corporals Sam Pratt and Mitchell Sisely. 

“At the higher levels there has been tremendous support from Colonel Andy Adams, Colonel Nick Stanton, and Major Chad Stonier in shaping the direction of Team Army and providing guidance over a number of years – and even more importantly, Henry Gibson has been endless in his support as the honorary Financial Director for Team Army, for without money nothing happens.” 

Focussing on Team Army 2013 Regener names the team – LT Chris Bulow, SGT Shayne Salau (Chief Mechanic Project Digger) and CPL Sam Pratt (Chief Mechanic Armygeddon) plus “a healthy group of some 30 apprentices who remain after 2012.” He adds: “The more senior and therefore experienced soldiers of Team Army include 2012 Apprentice of the Year Craftsman Bree Bailie, Craftsman Troy Simmonds, Craftsman Wes Atkinson, Craftsman Bradley Patterson and Craftsman Rowan Birch.”

Changing Times

Discussing how Team Army has changed over the years Regener emphasises that in its early years Team Army’s focus was very much on cars such as the Armygeddon vehicle, however, the focus has now turned to what each individual brings to the Team. “What a lot of people do not understand is that the Team Army that they see at an event will be a different group to those they saw at a previous event,” Regener explains. 

“The soldiers participating in Team Army have become a lot more relaxed with their engagement with the public and the car enthusiast community has become very comfortable with Team Army.” 

Regener emphasises that Team Army is an entirely voluntary activity with soldiers undertaking a technical trade at the Army School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering [ASEME] with the option to volunteer their time on Wednesday nights to attend Team Army where they might undertake various tasks. Military instructional staff also volunteer their time as the chief mechanics. Team Army can draw on around 200 vehicle mechanic apprentices, 100 armament fitters, 100 electronic technicians and electricians. 

“What makes Team Army very successful is having Generation Y soldiers talking to Generation Y members of the car enthusiast community about their experiences with recruit training and doing a technical trade through the Army, Regener explains. “My reading on Generation Y is that they like to have real life role models to engage with.” 

Published with the permission of the Australian Car Mechanic Magazine, MAR/APR 2013 issue.

Last updated
14 December 2016
Army: Courage. Initiative. Respect. Teamwork.
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