Kapooka’s new chief instructor says he has returned to a “better Wagga”, after scoring his dream job, this year.
Lieutenant Colonel Roger McMurray will be filling “enormous” boots as he replaces the much-admired Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Stephens, who marched out from Blamey Barracks in December.
The engineering officer took up his posting early this month – a posting he described as the pinnacle of his career.
Colonel McMurray will be responsible for the First Recruit Training Battalion – 1RTB – and its circa 250 staff on site.
Across two years, the Commanding Officer will be in charge of more than 1000 recruits at any given time, overseeing their 12-week transition from civilian to military life.
“What we do here makes the foundation for army,” Lt Col McMurray said. “We make soldiers.”
He brings with him almost three decades of experience in the armed forces and said he was looking forward to the many “bright things happening for army”.
“Everything starts here,” Lt Col McMurray said. “Army’s modernisation is going to increase dramatically.”
He said cyber and space would begin to play a part across defence, with Australians making the trek to Wagga to begin their journey and fill those roles.
New vehicles and new equipment will also feature in coming years, with an upgraded rifle expected to arrive mid-2018.
“The range of it is a lot greater,” Lt Col McMurray said. “It almost doubles to 600 metres.”
The commanding officer said he had no great plans to change the way 1RTB did business.
Instead, he said he would focus on his staff, their families and the recruits.
“We are already a fantastic institution,” he said. “We are producing fantastic results all the time.”
Lt Col McMurray has returned to the regional city, following his work as a platoon commander in 2001 and his first steps as a soldier in 1991.
“(Wagga has) definitely changed from when I was here last time,” he said. “Changed for the better.”
Lt Col McMurray said he was not as sporty as he used to be, but he was keen to check out local mountain bike tracks and camping grounds across the region.
He said he was looking forward to assimilating into the Wagga community – a community like Townsville, that supported its defence personnel.
“It’s definitely the dream job,” he said.
The remaining 157 female and 366 male recruits from last year, returned to their continue their training this month, following a short break across the Christmas period.
With intakes every week from January, the barracks is expected to be home to more than 1100 recruits before April.
Commandant Mick Garraway last year said he looked forward to working with Commanding Officer Lt Col McMurray.