Jonathan McMullan - Detachment Commander Australian Airforce is a humble, honest, brave leader who I am also honored to call a friend. This interview is deeply personal and incredibly moving. There is something in this for anyone interested in mental health, leadership or just in what it means to be human. Some of the topics we explore– overcoming the odds to fulfil potential, becoming demotivated by a mismatch of values and flipping that into something that can motivate and drive you to do things differently, leading in extreme pressure, how different people respond to trauma, how not allowing yourself to experience trauma fully or seeking help can be deeply damaging, living with PTSD and the deep power in sharing your own vulnerabilities as a leader.
Currently stationed in San Diego California Wing Commander Jonathan McMullan joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1991 as an Airborne Electronics Analyst. His journey has been marked by personal and professional challenges. For example, despite having marked on his original recruitment file ‘not Officer material’ he not only commissioned as a Navigator in 2001 but upon graduation from Officers’ Training School he received the annual Leadership Sword for the best Junior Officer. Spurred on by both a desire to prove he could but also significantly a desire to lead in a way he felt others were missing.
A significant part of how he has shaken up leadership has been to openly discuss his experience of PTSD, how that has shaped him and how important it is for people coming through the ranks both within the air force and within the population at large to understand that it’s OK to experience mental ill health, whoever you are.
In 2003 Jonathan served four tours flying in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He was then posted to the Air Combat Transition Office to support the introduction of the Australian Super Hornet. In 2011 he was selected to be the Detachment Commander for the Heron Remotely Piloted Aircraft rotation in Kandahar, leading a team in Afghanistan.
Jonathan was awarded a Commendation for Distinguished Service in the 2012 Queens Honours List for leadership at war and his meritorious Command of the RPA detachment in Afghanistan. He then returned to Kandahar for a further two commands of the Heron RPA team. At the conclusion of a nine month tour he was awarded the US Bronze Star for meritorious and heroic leadership at war and the seamless transition of capability.
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