Engineering a career of dreams

Department of Defence

On International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11 February) we shine the spotlight on one of Army’s female civil engineers.

While in Year 8, Captain Caitlin Attard decided she wanted to join the Army after graduating from high school, but when her best friend told her she couldn’t join because she was a girl, Captain Attard gave up on the idea.

A few years later, Captain Attard attended a conference for women interested in science and engineering careers and was inspired by a civil engineer who gave a speech about her career as an Army officer.

“One of the electives at the conference was a presentation by Lieutenant Colonel Amanda Johnson,” Captain Attard said.

“She was a normal person, really chill and really passionate about the Army. At the end of her speech I stayed back to ask her how I could sign up.

“She pointed me towards Defence Force Recruiting and I went online to start the process.”

During her final year of high school at Northside Christian College in Brisbane, Captain Attard was so determined to get into ADFA and become a civil engineer in the Army that she didn’t even apply to study at any other universities.

“Some of my friends and family felt that was a really bold move,” Captain Attard said.

“They said ‘but what if you don’t get in’ and I’d say, ‘well I’ll try again next year’.

“I only wanted to go to ADFA.”

In 2022, after completing a Bachelor of Civil Engineering with honours at ADFA as well as 12 months of leadership training at the Royal Military College – Duntroon, Captain Attard completed Regimental Officer Basic Course (ROBC) at the School of Military Engineering at Holsworthy Barracks, NSW.

“ADFA was great,” Captain Attard said.

“It was a life-altering experience as it was my first time out of home, and studying engineering was hard but I really enjoyed ADFA and I made so many lifelong friends.”

On completion of ROBC, Captain Attard posted to 1st Combat Engineer Regiment (1CER) in Darwin as a construction troop commander, where she got to know her troop of about 30 plant operators and tradespeople.

“At that point I had no idea you could do so many things in the Army,” Captain Attard said.

“When I chatted to all the different tradies I realised how much training you can do in the Army, like an entire apprenticeship.

“It’s such a great opportunity.”

In August 2023, Captain Attard deployed to Timor Leste for Exercise Hari’i Hamutuk, where she worked alongside the Timor Leste Defence Force and contracted engineers to construct two accommodation buildings at the Metinaro Military Base east of Dili.

She said it was the highlight of her career to date.

She’s now posted to 6th Engineer Support Regiment (6ESR) at RAAF Base Amberley in Ipswich. While Captain Attard misses Darwin a lot more than she expected, her current posting is one she had been looking forward to.

“I wanted to post to 6ESR all the way through ADFA and ROBC because this is where the start of the construction trade happens,” Captain Attard said.

“In Army, anything construction-related is at 6ESR.

“This year I’ll be overseeing small construction projects and next year I’ll be one of the main planners on the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program.”

Captain Attard is glad she followed her dream to become a civil engineer in the Army.

“I have always enjoyed maths and science,” Captain Attard said.

“I was the only female to graduate from civil engineering at ADFA in 2021, and while I might walk into a meeting room where there’s only one or two other females, it’s never crossed my mind that I can’t do this because I’m a woman.”

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