KEMPSEY ex-servicewoman Bronwyn Wheeler was a trailblazer for women in a male-dominated environment.
After spending 35 years in the military, and reaching the highly respected rank of Colonel, Bronwyn is an inspiration to women of all ages around the country.
She has worked in a range of roles including the director of Defence Force nursing, command health officer for the Army, and represented Australia as the senior gender advisor in a NATO division in Afghanistan.
Bronwyn has a highly decorated career that all started on a whim.
Growing up she always had a love for medicine and became an enrolled nurse soon after finishing school, then on her day off, she wandered into a Defence Force recruiting office.
The Airforce and the Navy both had four year waiting lists for nurses, but the Army was happy to sign her up on the spot.
"I remember going home and mum saying "How was your day?" and I said, "mum I think I joined the Army," Bronwyn said.
Her first overseas posting was a peace-keeping placement in Rwanda, where she worked at an aid post providing health care and assistance to those affected by the civil war.
"We set up at a refugee camp in two regimental aid posts, and we worked six days a week and saw over 1200 people at both of those locations daily," Bronwyn said.
"Sundays were our day off, but we opted to adopt an orphanage and so we would go there help out in any way we could."
"It was a really busy time, and a really good time."
One defining moment in her career was in 1999.
On a posting in East Timor whilst in command of the treatment section supporting the 3rd Australian Regiment, the officer in command appointed her second in charge of the administration company.
This role was responsible for overseeing the whole battalion, and it was the first time a woman had ever been appointed it.
"I said to the commanding officer, 'I'm happy to take up the challenge, but be prepared your men aren't going to like it'," Bronwyn said.
"They had not come up against anyone like me before."
In the years that followed, Bronwyn was responsible for the training of thousands of Army medics, and held high expectations for every single troop.
"We certainly made sure that they were trained the best way that they could possibly be, and I called the Army school the 'centre of excellence', because that's what I aimed for, and that's what I wanted to achieve," she said.
"When there's a life of a soldier depending on you, you don't want to be making mistakes, and the skills that they had were taught by us."
Over the span of her career Bronwyn also spent time in the United States of America, and postings all over Australia.
She said Remembrance Day (November 11) is a time of reflection for her.
"For nurses in particular, as we have been in every conflict since the war and we have lost a number of nurses, whether it be through prisoners of war, illness, or back home," Bronwyn said.
"And I don't think the support was there to what we have now, so I certainly look at them and what they achieved."
Bronwyn now plans on retiring at the end of the year, to spend more time golfing, volunteering at the Koala Hospital and "enjoying the beautiful Mid North Coast".
The service for Remembrance Day will begin at 10.45am at the monument near East Kempsey bridge.
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