A new leash on life15 October 2020
RSL Scholarship awarded to a former RAAF dog handler.
Former Royal Australian Air Force dog handler Adam Mitchell is pursuing a new career in psychology, thanks to an RSL Queensland Scholarship offering more than just financial support.
After serving almost 12 years, Adam retired from the RAAF in September 2019. Luckily, he didn’t have to re-enter the civilian world alone – he had his working dog Fod by his side.
He also had RSL Queensland, which awarded Adam an Ex-Defence Scholarship to aid his academic journey.
Adam is studying a Bachelor of Psychology Honours at USC on the Sunshine Coast – a career he chose because it would enable him to help people and wasn’t physically demanding.
“One of the things that resonates with me about psychology is that real one-on- one connection with people. So that’s one of the biggest reasons I want to transition down that pathway,” Adam says.
MORE THAN JUST FINANCIAL SUPPORT
During his shift away from the Air Force, an RSL Compensation Advocate helped Adam navigate the sometimes overwhelming DVA claims process.
“You’ve got to have the right guidance when you’re discharging. My advocate was incredibly helpful and took care of all my DVA applications,” he says.
The advocate also referred Adam to the RSL Scholarship program, which provided funds to cover his study and encouragement throughout the process.
“The financial support is incredible, but also the support of having someone at the end of the line to talk to about where I’m at, where I’m going, do I need any other support as far as other people to talk to, and other services to be linked in with. That’s the kind of support I’m getting,” Adam explains.
KICKSTARTING YOUR DRIVE
Veterans often discover that further study brings back some of the camaraderie and structure they enjoyed in Defence.
“In the Defence Force, we do have a very clear sense of purpose. We have missions and directives that we must follow. Transitioning into the civilian life, that goes away very quickly, but I’ve found that through the study, I’ve been able to find that purpose again, that drive to better myself,” Adam says.
“The RSL Queensland Scholarship came at a time when I was having a bit of a rough period and it was the boost to my morale that I really needed.”
A HELPING HAND
Adam started working with Fod in 2008 and it’s obvious the two share a special bond. The dog’s unusual name comes from the acronym FOD, which in the Air Force means Foreign Object Debris – a definition that belies the important role his furry friend plays in his life.
“To get her out of the kennels and be able to bring her home and give her a real retirement is just awesome,” Adam says.
And in the same way Adam has welcomed the helping hand of RSL Queensland, Fod has also benefitted from a bit of support in her retirement years.
When his beloved companion developed dementia, Adam adopted Lily, a tiny chug (chihuahua/pug cross), who he affectionately refers to as Fod’s assistance dog.
With his two dogs by his side and a scholarship under his belt, Adam is taking on his new university life with enthusiasm.
“I would never have considered myself much of an academic, but a lot of the skills that you learn in Defence – in relation to writing and structuring communication – transition really well to university,” Adam says.
REACH OUT TO THE RSL
Adam urges others who qualify to apply for an RSL Scholarship.
“I think the RSL builds an incredible space for people as they’re moving into civilian life. You’re still able to have that sense of pride with your Defence, you’ve still got that link to it through the RSL.
“I would definitely recommend that other Defence members get in touch with the RSL. There’s so much support available.”
NB: Sadly, a few weeks after we spoke with Adam, Fod’s health suddenly deteriorated and Adam was forced to make the extremely difficult decision to put his best friend to sleep.
APPLY FOR AN RSL SCHOLARSHIP
Higher education and training opens the door to opportunities and can improve your employability, sense of purpose and financial security. There are three types of RSL Queensland scholarships:
Ex-Defence / Partner / Veteran Dependant.