As an 18-year-old graduate from Copeland College, Craig McPherson wanted to be a physical education teacher but didn't achieve the requisite marks in maths and science.
However, he'd been dating a girl whose father was in the Victoria Police, "and he seemed to have a pretty interesting life".
So instead he joined the 1988 Australian Federal Police intake with the now Commissioner, Reece Kershaw, as one of his classmates.
"I was a young and naive feller still living at home; I think travelling to the [federal police] college at Barton was the furthest I'd ventured out from my local neighbourhood," he said.
Over the years which have followed, Sergeant McPherson has become a police officer who, although not entirely well-fitted to the corporate federal agent mould, has served his community with commitment, intelligence and dry humour.
Sergeant McPherson was one of three AFP members, including Assistant Commissioner Fiona Drennan and Detective Sergeant Bernard Geason, who received an Australian Police Medal (APM) in recognition of their service to the Australian community.
"It's been an interesting journey," Sgt McPherson said.
It's a story rarely told outside police ranks but he was involved in one of the most important and ultimately successful peacekeeping missions which the AFP has undertaken: to restore order and democracy to the war-torn South Pacific nation of the Solomon Islands in 2003.
"Law and order had basically broken down completely there," he said.
"That mission could have gone south very easily; it was a massive job to do in a country where there were firearms everywhere and local warlords ran the place.
"But the two key people they chose to lead that mission - Nick Warner as the diplomat and Ben McDevitt as the police officer - turned out to be the stroke of genius; those two made it work."
Sergeant McPherson was deployed into the toughest and most remote jungle region - the Weathercoast of Guadalcanal - where the only contact with his family back in Canberra was 10 minutes on a satellite phone once a week.
And with his unflappable humour, he borrowed a little from Jerry Seinfield to help bring the community together.
"We set up a three day friendship Festivus; we had netball games, iron man and iron woman competitions, soccer games, you name it, and people came in from all over," he said.
"We screened movies at night, early sessions for the kids and then Bad Boys for the adults, projected onto the outside wall of the police station."
He described his Solomon Islands experience as one he will never forget, and one where "courage, goodwill, and commitment" returned much-needed stability to the country.
One of Sergeant McPherson's most recent significant achievements within the ACT was developing the operational co-response model known as PACER (Police, Ambulance and Clinician Early Response) whereby the three agencies - ACT Health, ACT Policing and ACT Ambulance - work together in responding to people experiencing mental health issues in the community.
"It was a further development of the mental health initiative; we looked at programs operating all around the world and then drew down on those elements which would best suit our environment," he said.
"In the end we drew up a hybrid model of those operating in Birmingham [United Kingdom] and Canada."
From uncertain beginnings, the program has become so successful that other states and territories are now following suit, with the Northern Territory and Tasmania - and New Zealand - studying and now borrowing key elements from the ACT PACER model to apply in their own jurisdictions.
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