NEW MISSION: Michael Hooper will walk the Kokoda trail for Mates4Mates, a charity helping ex and current service personnel who are ill or injured.
NEW MISSION: Michael Hooper will walk the Kokoda trail for Mates4Mates, a charity helping ex and current service personnel who are ill or injured. Che Chapman

He served in Baghdad but can't find a job at home

MICHAEL Hooper spent 20 years serving his country in the armed forces, but he doesn't have the "experience" needed to secure a job on the Sunshine Coast.

Mr Hooper, from Little Mountain, has also found it very hard fitting back into civilian life since retiring from the Defence Force to spend time with his young family in December.

Where once he was busy with "important stuff", fixing vehicles and generators for the Defence Force, now his days are "changing nappies and sweeping floors".

"It's been a bit a culture shock," he admitted.

He has found purpose and a mission preparing for the Kokoda Trail to raise money for Mates4Mates, a not-for-profit which provides support to wounded, injured or ill current and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel and their families.

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Initially, when Mr Hooper joined Mates4Mates, he was concerned he didn't fit in either as his experience in the army had been far from negative.

"I was in the army for 20 years," Mr Hooper said.

"I joined as an infantryman and finished as a tradie. I travelled all around Australia and in 2003 I was deported to Kuwait. It was a really good and positive experience, being part of the support crew for the guys in Baghdad."

But with a wife and two children, now aged five and nearly two, the army life wasn't suited to his family.

"With a young family, the military life was not appropriate," he said.

The couple bought a home on the Sunshine Coast three years ago and his wife, Siobhan works full-time and Mr Hooper has been Mr Mum while trying to find part-time employment.

He has also found it hard socialising.

"It's a bit awkward, you don't know where people's interests are," he said.

"In the army, you don't need an introduction. You trust people and work together no matter what the personality. Socialising is part of the army culture."

Mr Hooper has written several resumes and asked a few people for work, but "everyone asks for experience".

Before leaving the army, he did receive training in cabling and telecommunications. This hasn't helped.

"I have work experience, I just don't have industry experience," he said.

"It is quite challenging to find an in. A lot of the work is self-employment or sub-contracted which doesn't help me. I thought I would be able to work for somebody, but this hasn't happened yet."

Mr Hooper said when he first joined Mates4Mates, "I didn't sort of belong there".

"I don't have mental issues from the army, but it's just integrating into the social world," he said.

Mr Hooper starts the Kokoda Trail today and finishes on April 15. For more about Mates4Mates, visit the website www.mates4mates.org.



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