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Reaching the summit

An inspiring leader   

With a passion for educating and inspiring people of all ages to build confidence, resilience, and leadership skills, Dr Rebecca Jackson is a powerful force.  

Bec’s history with the ADF spans more than 24 years. She served for 15 years in the Australian Army Reserve, first as a medical assistant for four years and then as a commissioned officer in the Royal Australian Corps of Transport for 11 years. She has supported the ADF since then as a psychologist both in the APS and as a private consultant psychologist for the past 10 years.   

She has spent 20 years building her professional expertise across psychology, academia, therapy, and education in clinical, forensic, and organisational psychology roles. Over past 10 years, she has focused on the military, government leaders and private enterprise, and five years ago she founded The Jackson Company, a bespoke para-disciplinary consulting practice which combines her unique skills, experience, and expertise.  

 The March On Challenge   

Soldier On’s largest annual fundraising event, the March On with Soldier On Challenge is a virtual challenge where people around the country set themselves a challenge to walk or run 96km (the length of the Kokoda Track) during the month of March. All raised funds help Soldier On to continue providing support services designed to improve the wellbeing and mental health of our veteran community. Nearly 10,000 people around Australia – and beyond – took part in the challenge this year. 

 Stepping up to the challenge  

Bec has taken part in the March On Challenge since 2020. A mutual friend invited her on a walk up Gibraltar Peak that year with then Soldier On CEO Ivan Slavich and fellow Soldier On Ambassador Ben Farinazzo. She signed up as part of their March On Team, the Stomp Dogs, walking early mornings around the peaks of Canberra (also kickstarting her journey of becoming a Soldier On Ambassador).   

 The following year, in 2021, Bec raised more than $4,000 for March On by tackling the 10 Peaks Challenge in the Snowy Mountains, a short but challenging adventure across the ten highest peaks in Australia, all of which are located in Kosciuszko National Park.  

In 2022, Bec commenced her March On challenge while her mum was in palliative care, finding that walking daily around the lake was a great way to cope with the stress and emotional overwhelm that was ever-present in that month.   

 A bucket list adventure  

Following her Mum’s passing in late March 2022, Bec continued to walk to deal with her grief and loss. She decided as part of her own self-care and mental wellbeing to continue the walking routine and also considered what ‘bucket list’ adventure she could undertake to keep her motivated and focused on something positive.   

 “My mum loved Africa, she’d never travelled there, but watched many documentaries on Africa, read novels set there and had always dreamt that a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti would be the ultimate adventure,” Bec says. 

This prompted her to investigate trekking Mt Kilimanjaro. Bec set herself a goal and training started shortly after. She spoke to the team at Soldier On and suggested that she could fundraise while training and climbing Mt Kilimanjaro as an extension of the March On Challenge. She ended up setting herself a goal of walking 1000 kilometres in total. “It seemed like an audacious goal and a nice round number to work towards,” Bec says. “I also set my fundraising target at $10,000.”   

Oh, the places you’ll go…  

To complete the mammoth kilometre goal, Bec trekked most of the high features in the Australian Capital Territory and surrounds, including many laps of Lake Burley Griffin, the Snowy Mountains, the Blue Mountains, Southern Tasmania and Mt Kilimanjaro. To complete her last 100km, Bec thought it fitting to walk the actual Kokoda trek in Papua New Guinea, the inspiration for the March On challenge run by Soldier On each Year.  

Bec, along with fellow veteran Annie North, enlisted Zac Zaharias CSM to guide them on the trek. The founder of Peak Learning Adventures and its head guide, Zac has been guiding tours to PNG battlefield treks and tours for 13 years.  

The group held fundraising events and practice treks in Canberra, engaging corporate sponsors to cover costs so that all funds raised could go to Soldier On. 

Bec had covered the distance of Kokoda in virtual challenges a few times but nothing compared to the real thing. “The actual Kokoda trail is like nothing you can imagine or walk virtually,” she says. “It is so steeped in significant military and Australian and Pacific history, naturally beautiful, wild and remote, and physically it is an exceptional test of endurance and fitness.”   

 Courage, Endurance, Mateship and Sacrifice  

In 2023, the March On Challenge placed a spotlight on the values of the four pillars of Kokoda: Courage, Endurance, Mateship and Sacrifice. These aren’t far removed from the personal resources Bec tells us veterans need to meet the challenges they face.  

“Military veterans face many challenges both during their service and beyond their service,” she says. “The personal resources required to meet those challenges include grit, endurance, self-awareness, determination, resourcefulness and courage. I found that all these skills were needed as I completed the various legs of my 1000 kilometre March On challenge.”   

Walking with the grief and loss of her mum, and her own identity transition to adult orphan, this personal and emotional challenge is still ongoing, but the opportunity to work through these emotions while walking through some of Australia’s most beautiful locations and the equally stunning trails in Tanzania and Papua New Guinea, have afforded Bec “the chance to heal alongside a wonderful support network of family, friends and colleagues who have walked alongside me literally and through their sponsorship.”   

While being a self-confessed “novice and baby mountaineer”, Bec says her experience has given her a taste for the activity. “I love listening to the stories and experience of those I’ve met since dabbling in this mountaineering world. It makes me excited to learn and experience bigger and bigger challenges in the years ahead.”  

As Bec and her crew traversed the trail, soaking in the significant history, Zac expertly paused and shared stories of individuals and units. There was time spent learning and walking. There was time spent in quiet reflection. The crew crossed wild rivers, trekked steep tracks through jungle filled with birdsongs and butterflies, passed crops and banana plantations and waterfalls, and enjoyed nights by a campfire with Tim Tams.   

Bec’s March On Challenge raised an incredible total of $11,853, exceeding her fundraising goal. 

There’s no place like home  

Having made it home safely, Bec says, “I am very grateful for the experience. I am also grateful to fellow Army veterans Zac Zaharias, who guided the Mt Kilimajaro and Kokoda trips, as well as Lt Col Annie North who joined me for the Kokoda trek and provided some wonderful fundraising support through securing corporate sponsors and merchandise.”  

When asked what advice she’d give someone thinking about taking up the March On Challenge, Bec suggests you find some friends who like to walk and talk and get a team together. It’s a great opportunity to get out into your local area with people and be active, while at the same time raising money and awareness for a very worthwhile charity. 

 “Soldier On is important to me as an organisation because of my own military service and that of my family members and friends,” Bec says. “It supports serving and ex-serving members to build community connections, to focus on how to use their strengths and unique experiences beyond their service in uniform, and it assists them and their families to thrive – socially, emotionally, physically and practically.” 

For more information about Bec, head to her website drbecjackson.com or find her on LinkedIn.  

For more information about March On, head to marchonchallenge.org.au. Registrations for 2024 are open now!

  

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