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Maj General John Cantwell AO DSC (Retd)

Major General John Cantwell AO DSC (Retd)


John Cantwell retired from the Australian Army in early 2012 after a unique career spanning almost 40 years.

Starting as a private soldier he rose through the ranks to become a Major General. Along the way he held and excelled in a diverse range of command and senior management appointments, including Commanding Officer of the Royal Military College at Duntroon, Commander of the 1st Brigade, Deputy Chief of the Army, and his last appointment was the Commander of all Australian forces in Afghanistan and the wider Middle East area of operations.

General Cantwell’s experiences go well beyond the normal run of military appointments. In 2008 he was appointed by the Chief of the Defence Force to head the Force Structure Review which was at the heart of the current Defence White Paper, and which defined the structure and capabilities of the Australian Defence Force for the next 20 years.

In 2009 the General was appointed Chief of Operations of the Victoria Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority, a role in which he coordinated all Commonwealth, State and non-government efforts to recover from the deadly Black Saturday fires. The Premier of Victoria characterised General Cantwell as "a hands-on tireless leader and organiser with a remarkable ability to gain the respect and cooperation of disparate groups." The Prime Minister later described the General as a leader possessing "exceptional skills in coordination, guidance and organisation."

General Cantwell served in three distinct wars: combat duty in Operation Desert Storm in 1991; as the Director of Strategic Operations of the Multi National Forces in Iraq in 2006 and as the Commander of Australian forces in the Middle East in 2010.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his "inspired leadership, deep commitment to his people and superior performance on operations." He has been made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM, 1990) and an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO, 2007), in addition to two Commendations for superior performance.

Major General Cantwell is a skilled and engaging public speaker. His compelling interview for the Four Corner's television program "A Careful War" in 2010 dealing with the conflict in Afghanistan won wide praise. He lectures on command, leadership and crisis management to a variety of defence, business and academic audiences. He sits on the Advisory Board of an international defence-related company and provides one-on-one mentoring to senior executives.


Robert Joske Management Pty Ltd

Tel: + 61 2 93281444

Mob: + 61 412 211 510


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