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Celebrating 100 years: Kevin's story

To acknowledge 100 years of serving those who serve Australia, we’re talking to CSC customers to hear their unique stories. Meet Kevin Smythe—see how his military and Middle East careers have served him well and how CSC continues to play a role in his career journey.

10 Oct 2022

Retired Squadron Leader and Senior Intelligence Officer Kevin Smythe says he owes his old ex-Sergeant a thank you for explaining DFRDB to him—then a grumbling 21-year-old reading his first pay slip.

“I said, what’s this?! They’ve stolen money from me! And of course, I was told that it was my DFRDB and that it was savings for when I retire. And I said, well crikey, I might be dead by then. So basically I wrote it off for years and years. Never gave it a thought.”

When Kevin finally left the Air Force 23 years later to work in the punishingly hot Middle East, he chose to remain with DFRDB.

“One day, I was sitting in the Middle East and an envelope marked Pensions, or something, arrived. I opened it up and it had a really nice earnings figure. And I thought, well this is a nice statement!

I threw it across the table to my subordinate. I said, have a look at that. This thing was a bloody joke and now it's made me a whole stack of money. And the guy looked at it and said, what were you doing to get that much money? I said, I got that for doing nothing basically.

I told him that it was just my old service pension gone wild. He said, crikey, you know, you're a lucky bloke! And I thought, oh, I suppose I am. I didn't even really plan or think about it. So, it suddenly dawned on me what a valuable commodity my DFRDB had become.”

Kevin acknowledges that at the beginning of his career he had no concept or value for superannuation, but that eventually he realised its importance.

“All through my three careers, DFRDB has been running. And as time passes, it's probably become more important through each phase: first was my ‘I ignored it’ phase. Then in the Middle East it was my ‘I woke up to it’ phase. And now I’m in my ‘planning around it’ phase.

I sometimes think, if only I’d increased my super when I was younger. If I’d invested in it, I could have had more benefit. But I didn't really invest in it. I just did well out of it. I could’ve done better, but I didn't have the guidance and I didn't have the knowledge.”

After his military and Middle East careers, Kevin is now in what he calls his ‘live-life-to-the-fullest’ career. He returned to Perth in 2015 to commence studies as a PHD candidate researching the WWII Catalina Flying Boats. These Qantas planes were once a common sight on Perth’s Swan River during the Second World War. Heavily laden with fuel for their long flight to Sri Lanka, they were recorded as performing secret war-related activity—and yet they carried no arms or soldiers.

Kevin uncovered the real history and purpose of these flights and documented this in his now completed PhD. He then went on to author two books, The Magnificent Gift: How Qantas Broke the Japanese Air Blockade on Perth and Western Australia 1943–1945 and The Swan River Flying Club: The Story of the United States Navy's Patrol Wing 10 and How it Established an Air Defence Zone to Protect Western Australia from the Japanese, 1942–1944.

Reflecting on his careers, Kevin hopes that the next generation of ADF members involve themselves in all the great things that can spawn a post-military career with further success.

“I hope the new generation can have as much fun and as much experience as we all had in our careers because I wouldn't swap it—the old military career—for the world. I mean, I've outgrown it these days, but from age 21 to 44 I couldn't have had a better lifestyle quite frankly.”

 

Kevin Smythe smiling for a picture dressed in Air Force uniform

“I consider myself lucky to have had DFRDB. If I hadn’t had it forced upon me, I might have ditched it because I didn’t appreciate what I had. But you know, it’s turned out to be great!”

Kevin Smythe, CSC customer since 1981

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