While COVID-19 travel restrictions this year put an end to high school graduates heading overseas on a year off, two young men have benefited from the ADF Gap Year Program.

Lieutenants Gabriel Sohn and Isaac Bailey will stay in Defence after their year in the Army.

The ADF Gap Year Program is for youth who have completed Year 12 and want to get a taste of life in the Army, Navy or Air Force while getting paid.

Lieutenant Sohn finished high school on the New South Wales Central Coast and applied for several university courses.

But he said he wanted some real-world experience before deciding on a career and, with an interest in the Army, he successfully applied to be an ADF Gap Year officer.

“I wanted to challenge myself, which sounds cliché, but I had a friend who had completed the program for other ranks, and they enjoyed it,” he said.

“Since that first day at Defence Force Recruiting, I have had no regrets.

“It’s been a great experience.”

The best parts of my experience have been the people I’ve met and what I’ve learnt about leadership.

Lieutenant Sohn, with other program participants, underwent condensed training to receive his commission and a posting to 6 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR).

“We started on the reservist course at Kapooka, then moved onto the reservist officer course to train as a section commander then platoon commander,” Lieutenant Sohn said.

“We received our commissions and completed our Infantry Regimental Officer Basic Course before being sent to our battalions.

“At 6 RAR, I was able to participate in Exercise Vital Prospect, which was really interesting as I was around a lot of senior leaders.”

Lieutenant Sohn also spent time in the field training with 6 RAR’s D Company at Shoalwater Bay, saying it was an interesting learning experience.

He said the program was character-building.

“Being able to experience this stuff gives you the opportunity to become a leader,” he said.

“It’s really rewarding.”

He plans to stay in the Army following his gap year, having applied for a full-time posting to Sydney as an operations lieutenant at 8 Combat Service Support Battalion.

Lieutenant Bailey’s experience was similar to his gap year colleague.

He completed high school in Woorimba, Queensland, then applied for the program.

“I’ve always been interested in the Army, but I also wanted to go to university, so the gap year program was a good way to get my foot in the door in the defence force before starting my degree,” he said.

“The best parts of my experience have been the people I’ve met and what I’ve learnt about leadership.

“I really enjoyed the live firing too.”

Lieutenant Bailey will head to SERCAT 5 as a reservist when his gap year is over, and also begin a pharmaceutical science degree.

Having gained some life experience, he said he felt well-equipped for the future.

 “This gap year has been enjoyable with plenty of action,” he said.