An army reservist who moonlights as a casual teacher in Inverell has been recognised for almost 50 years of dedicated service to the Australian Army.
Lieutenant Colonel Michael John Gray has been awarded the Federation Star - one to add to the collection of numerous decorations accumulated over 47 years of service.
"It's a very nice, quiet way to recognise a job well done," he smiled. Missing out on the grand presentation ceremony thanks to COVID, he said the Star was "absolutely" headed straight for the pool room.
The Star will now sit with the Reserve Forces Decoration for 15 years as an officer, and four clasps to the RFD, awarded after five years of 'effective and efficient' service.
Still in the reserves, he enlisted in the Australian Army in June 26, 1974, and was commissioned as an officer on December 14, 1979 into the Australian Infantry Corps.
He officially ticked over 47 years this year - with 41 years in commissioned rank. Growing up in Quirindi, he said the desire to join the army "was more than a calling".
"I had an uncle who served in the Infantry in Japan... but when I was able to join, it was the time just after the Vietnam war, when the community and people were very disillusioned.
"So I joined the reserves - and I've loved every minute of it."
The career was filled with "so many rewarding moments", however serving on the anti-terrorist planning group for the Sydney Olympics was one of them.
"I was lucky enough to not see or get sent to any conflicts," he reflected.
"But I have seen so many changes since I started - the quality of the equipment we have now is astounding compared to when I first started - very sophisticated."
He has performed a wide range of duties across a number of units throughout his career, including in the 1/19 Battallion Royal NSW Regiment, the 2/17th Battalion Royal NSW regiment, Headquarters the 2nd Division, Headquarters the 5th Brigade, the Officer Cadet Training Unit, the Land Warfare Centre, Army Headquarters Russell Offices, the Royal Military College and the 2nd Training Group.
He was also in the Directorate of Army Administrative Inquiries - and that's just to name a few. With his "parallel" career of teaching, LTCOL Gray was the principal at Glen Innes High School for five years, before moving to Inverell to work as a casual teacher at Macintyre High School.
"Being a teacher, I often get asked what it's like, being in the reserve," he said.
"It's a great life, if you can take the discipline and fitness. You have to prepare yourself for the fact that you may very well get sent to a war zone. I was lucky in some ways, looking back at the end of a very long career in the infantry as a soldier, to see such a long period of peace."
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