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Defence Broadcast Highlights: Women in the Air Force

September 13, 2019

Hi everyone, and welcome to
Women In The Air Force, live interactive broadcast. My name is Corporal
Samatha Bartlett. And I’m an aircraft
technician. I’ve been in the Air
Force nine years. And in that time I have
had the pleasure of working on F-111’s. And I’m currently employed at
1 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley working on
the Super Hornet. My name’s Flight Lieutenant
Natalie Pietrobon. And I’m a pilot I currently
fly C-17’s which is the aircraft sitting behind us. And I do so at 36th Squadron. Previous to that I was flying
Caribous which no longer exist in the Air Force. And I’ve been in the Air Force
for about 15 years. So now that we’ve got the
instructions done, let’s begin with our first question
for tonight. Marion C wants to know what is
a typical day in our job? For myself, as an aircraft
technician, my day starts off fairly easily. We usually go for
a morning brief. We find which aircraft we will
be flying for the day, which aircraft requires maintenance
in order to make them serviceable. We usually get split up into
teams, teams for maintenance, and teams to prep aircraft
for flight. We go out, do that job, once
the aircraft is ready, we usually wait for air
crew to arrive. We get them seated in the
aircraft, see them start up, see them launch, and then we
usually ride around for about an hour until they return and
carry out after flight inspections, make sure the
aircraft still serve. And if that’s the case, we
repeat the precess two or three times a day. For myself as a pilot, it really
depends on whether you’re getting ready to go and
do a task or do a mission or you are go flying or whether if
you don’t have a flight to do, you’re in the office. So a typical day if you are
going for a flight is once Sam has got the aircraft ready,
the air crew will turn up about two hours before you
are meant to take off. We’ll get the weather, we’ll
make sure that the task is still as it’s meant to be. We’ll go out to the jet. It takes about an hour and a
half to sometimes an hour to actually get the jet ready
before you’ll start engines. Just make sure the entire
crew is there, that your load is on board. Basically pre flighting the
aircraft and making sure everything is there before you
launch off around the world. And then we’ll start the
engines, and then we’ll take off, and we’ll fly away for
sometimes a couple of days, sometimes a couple of
weeks at a time. If we’re not flying though, it’s
just sort of 7:00 till 4:30 job where you come to work,
you log on, you check emails, you do secondary duties,
or you start prepping for another task,
or you study. And it’s quite varied. Ella would like to know why did
you choose to join the Air Force over the other services? This is a very easy answer. Basically for myself I wanted
to fly, and the Air Force is based around flying. And so it was a bit
of a no brainer. I also wanted to fixed wing
which is different to rotary, so different to helicopters. And the Air Force has some
of the best air craft in Australia to fly. And we go all over the world. And I just thought it was
the better looking of the three out there. I have to say that I would agree
with Nat on that one. I joined the Air Force
because I wanted to work on Super Hornets. Originally when I joined
though at the time they weren’t available. So I did choose F-111’s. I guess ideally for me my job
criteria or my ideal for my job was that I wanted to
travel within my job. And for me the Air Force was
that perfect opportunity. Our next question, Allison wants
to know what have you achieved throughout
your career– And what are the career
highlights? I guess for myself, personally,
my career highlight is I did a red flag
trip over to the US. It’s out in the Nevada desert
right next door to Las Vegas. So I’ve had some highlights
there where I’ve been maintaining on the F-111 and had
a visual of the Las Vegas’ strip at night. And it was pretty impressive. I also had a chance to look
around Las Vegas as well. I went into to a few of the
casinos, I got to see the Hoover Damn, and I did the Grand
Canyon by helicopter. Yeah, for those of you who do
end up joining the Air Force, I think this is a really
difficult question because there are so many career
highlights. For myself, I don’t think I can
really narrow it down to any, from flying in highlands
of Papua, New Guinea to operating in Afghanistan, and
taking a trip around the world, and seeing places I’ve
never been before, using night vision goggles to
land on strips. It’s a difficult question
because it’s almost like your entire career is a highlight. And for those of you who do
decide to join, you’ll have very similar experiences to
Sam and I. And it almost becomes the norm which
sounds a bit blase. But it’s not. Like going over seas and doing
things that are extraordinary become the highlight. Mel would like to know what
is the most exciting aspect of your job? I think Sam and I can both agree
that we love our job and that’s probably because
it is exciting. There are definitely some dull
moments as with any job. But, for myself, the most
exciting aspect of my job is achieving a mission. So basically landing the
aircraft, taking a load, or when I refer to a load it’s all
of that cargo that you put in the back of the aircraft and
taking it to a particular air strip on time halfway across
the world in weather that’s not so great, and walking
away from the air craft and going, I did that, and
I led my team to do that. And I did that because the
training that the Air Force provided me is so good. Yeah my most exciting aspect
is definitely the challenge for me. There are days when an aircraft
comes back on service when we don’t now why or
how it went wrong. So actually finding out what
went wrong and how we’re going to go about fixing it is
something that I find extremely challenging and a
reason for why I enjoy my job. The other exciting aspect is
finding out when we get to go away on trips. So finding out that I get to go
to red flag, and I’ve got four weeks in Las Vegas. Or another passionate place
for me is to go to Guam. So I love scuba diving. So I got to scuba dive in my
time off outside of work while I was there. So traveling the world
is definitely a perk for me in this job. Elke, Natalie, what was it like
going through ADFA, and what did you study? ADFA is a really, really good
way to get a degree. And that was the main
reason why I decided to go through ADFA. And for those girls out there
who are thinking ah, I can’t be a pilot, or it’s too hard,
please, please don’t. Because I tried three times
before becoming a pilot. And in fact I never actually
joined up as a pilot, I joined up as an air traffic controller
because I didn’t actually pass the testing. So I joined up ADFA, and I did
a science degree, and I mentioned in chemistry which
was interesting. Haven’t used the degree in my
line of work because you just generally don’t. Chemistry is a hard degree
to use in the Air Force. And once I’d finished my air
traffic controlling, I transferred to pilot a couple
of years later. But going through ADFA was
a really good experience. You made some really
good friends. You got paid to go to ADFA,
which a lot of my school friends weren’t getting paid
to go to university. And you got to live the military
life and had an idea of what the military life was
like before properly absorbing yourself into to
the Air Force. Sally B wants to know what
advice would you give to other women looking to join
the Air Force? My advice is that know what
you’re looking for. I really can only give you my
own advice that I used to join the Air Force, Sally. And leaving high school,
I had no idea what I wanted for a career. There’s three things I did
know that I wanted. And that was that I wanted
a job that was going to challenge me, a job that was
going to interest me every day I turned up to work, and a job
that I would really love and have a bit of a wow factor too
really when someone inquired about what it is that
I did for a living. I also know that when I left
high school, I swore to myself that I was never going to write
another essay, and, therefore, uni was no
longer an option. But I also wanted a job that was
going to pay me and a job that was going to let
me see the world. And knowing that I found that
the Air Force was going to provide those things for me. And since I’ve joined I
haven’t looked back. And I think with the Air Force,
you’ve got to give it a go, give yourself the
challenge, put yourself out there. If it works for you
then great. You get to sit here like me and
Nat a few years down the track and talk about
your experience. And if it doesn’t work, I mean
there’s still opportunities to get out and try other things
in life as well. Caitlin wants to know, how do
you manage working in the Air Force and seeing family
and friends? It depends on where you
are posted really. So you can be posted anywhere
across Australia, and unfortunately if your family
doesn’t live in Katherine in Northern Territory it’s
going on be very difficult to see them. But the Air Force gives you
reunion travel which is a paid trip to see your family
once a year. And seeing your friends,
generally your friends are the people you work with. So it’s generally not that hard
to hang out with your friends outside of work. But there are plenty of
opportunities to make friends outside of work and
to do sporting activities outside of work. And I actually don’t
find it overly difficult to manage that. It’s quite a really
good balance. I actually joined the Air Force,
Caitlin, to get away from my family at
19 years of age. I’ll be totally honest
with you. My family now lives
in New Zealand. So talking about how we manage
seeing them, Air Force offers you leave. So you still have your
weekends free. You can take more time
off if you want to. We get time off at Christmas. So it’s just about making time
for your family if and when you need to see them. And the Air Force is
flexible too in allowing you to do that. Carol wants to know, how has
the Air Force helped you to develop skills and otherwise
grow as people? Air Force is big on its core
values and morals. But I definitely think
confidence in who you are as a person and leadership
is just one of the biggest things I’ve learned. Having to talk to air crew in
certain situations where they’re asking me if their
aircraft is OK to fly, and knowing that you’ve done your
job 100%, that you know exactly what you are talking
about and that you can guarantee that they’re going to
be good, and they’re going to fly, and they’re going
to come back and that everything’s going
to go smoothly. So yeah you learn to be
confident, and you make some pretty big decisions. And I actually think that some
days it can be quite humbling in what we do and how we do
it and definitely the people that we help. Especially right now like
examples like Philippines and things like that. Alison wants to know how
old we where when we joined the Air Force? Well, Allison, I didn’t actually
join straight out of high school. I actually joined
when I was 19. At that point in time I was
running three jobs in hospitality area. And certain people in my life,
aka, my parents, kept questioning me on what I was
going to do with my life. And to be honest, I really
didn’t know. But knowing my three goals for
what I wanted in my career, my parents suggested having a
look into the Air Force. I did, and nine years later,
here I am today. Yeah, I was 18. I did a year out of school. I went to university, sort of
stumbled around a bit, knew it wasn’t for me, and I knew
I wanted to fly. And so I went to ADFA
and haven’t looked back since then. Caitlin she wants to know,
what are your living facilities like? Caitlin, for me, personally,
I live in Brisbane. I obviously work out at RAAF
Base Amberley which is out at Ipswich which is about
a 40 K drive. I choose to live in Brisbane. Defense helps me in the
sense that they help me pay into my rent. So I guess rental assistance
through the Air Force. And I’ll be honest to say that
it’s really, really helpful at the end of the day. I love where I live. It’s a rental property that
I could find for myself. And it works for me and my
partner really well. Living facilities during your
training, you generally have to be on base. Depending on what base you’re
at depends on the degree of how new they are. Most bases are fairly new. They’re comfortable. They provide you exactly
what you need. As a female, you’d be separated
from males. So once you are in training,
you have to be on base. Then once you’ve finished
training, you can live wherever you like really. So you can have the facilities
at whatever level you choose. Julia, Sam, do you enjoy doing
a technical trade role? And how do you feel working
with mostly guys? Julia, I love my job. I go to work everyday, and I
like the challenge, I like the unknown, I like not
knowing what is wrong with an air craft. I get to pull it apart and
put it back together. I’ve picked up some
qualifications in my time as a maintainer. I picked up my engine runner’s
authorization. So for me that’s a joy I really,
or a kick really that I get out of my job. I get to get into a Super Hornet
and actually set up both engines, run all the
flight controls, and do systems checks. It’s something that I really
have a pleasure in doing. And I now get to teach
that as well. Margaret I wants to know, does
being in the Air Force impact your decision to settle down
or start a family? The Air Force does impact
your decision. How much that affects you is
obviously up to you and the people that you can talk to
around you and how willing the Air Force is willing to
accommodate your needs. However, though if you are in
the Air Force and you do choose to settle down and start
a family, the Air Force will support you 100%
of the way. I, personally, have been a
little bit career driven up until this point. But I’m 28. I just got engaged. My partner and I are looking to
getting married in the next couple of years. A family is on the five
year radar if you want to put it that way. So we’re definitely looking at
our options and where we want to be and what location we want
to be in if and when we do decide to have children. So yeah it does make
an impact. But I guess that every job
does at some extent too. Jessica, was wanting to know,
I was looking at a trade and avionics air craft technicians
both interest me. Is there a reason you chose to
be an aircraft technician? Jess, I’ll explain it to you how
I had it explained to me. I got asked a question in a
sense as am I a visual person or can I picture a lot of
the work in my head? I found the question that I got
asked by my Defense Force recruiting officer at the time
was that I found myself to be a very visual person. So if I could have the problem
in front of me, and I was able to physically pick it up, look
at it, and play with it, and put it back together then I
preferred that option more so than doing it in my head. In that way he said that I would
probably more likely enjoy being an aircraft
technician more so than avionics which is more of your
electrical computer systems. A lot of it is behind
the scenes. You don’t see a result
right in front of you then and there. For me, hence the reason I chose
aircraft technician. I also like to get dirty. In the sense that aircraft
technician can be quite a greasy job. I can pull out an engine, I can
put in a new engine back in by the end of the day, and
the aircraft can be flying. I get to see a lot of outcomes
for my job more so than maybe avionics. Diana, this is the last
question, do you feel that there is a supportive network to
assist you in the facet of Air Force life? Diana, when I first started
out, so nine years ago, I actually thought this network
was a little bit lacking. I would like to say definitely
in the last three or four years that support network
for women has increased dramatically. I’m seeing more women in the
Air Force every day. I’m making new friends. And I guess the more women we
have, the more often that we talk to each other, the better
off the Air Force is becoming, and our supportive network
grows with that. Yeah, I’ve been in 15 years. I made so many friends. I’ve worked at lots of bases. And I’m in contact with a lot
of my girlfriends and even a lot of guys. And you can reach out to them
even if you haven’t spoken to them in six months
or 12 months. You might hear stuff on the
street, and I’ll ring you and go, hey, what’s going on? And the friendship network
is fantastic.

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