November 18, 2019
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Defence Broadcast replay: Women in the Air Force


Hi everyone, and welcome to
Women in the Air Force live interactive broadcast. My name is Corporal Bartlett,
and I’m an aircraft technician. I’ve been in the Air Force now
nine years, and in that time, I have had the pleasure
of working on F-111s. And I am currently employed at
One Squadron, at RAAF base Amberley working on
the Super Hornet. My name’s Flight Lieutenant
Natalie Pietrobon, and I’m a pilot. I currently five C-17s, which is
the aircraft sitting behind us, and I do so at
36 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
introductions done, let’s dig in with our first question
for tonight. Marian 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 out which aircraft we’ll
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 prepare aircraft for flight. We go out and do that job. Once the aircraft’s 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 wait around
for about an hour until they return and carryout
after-flight inspections, make sure the aircraft’s
still safe. And if that’s the case, we
repeat the process two or three times a day. For myself, as a pilot, it
really depends on whether you’re getting ready to go into
a task, or a mission, or you could go flying. Or whether, if you don’t
have a flight to do, you’re in the office. So a typical day if you’re going
for a flight is once Sam has got the aircraft ready,
the air crew will turn up about two hours before you’re
meant to take off. We’ll get the weather. We’ll make sure the task is
still as it’s meant to be. Then 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 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’s 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 a sort of 7:00 to 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 fly fixed-wing,
which is different to rotary, so different
to helicopters. And the Air Force has some of
the best aircraft 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. Well, I’d 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-111s. 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, Alice M wants
to know what have you achieved throughout
your career? And what are the career
highlights? Yeah. I guess for myself, personally,
my career highlight was 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 a few
of the casinos. I got to see the Hoover Dam, and
I did the Grand Canyon by helicopter. Yeah, for those of who who do
end up joining the Air Force, I think this a really difficult
question, because there are so many career
highlights. For myself, I don’t think I
could really narrow it down to any from flying in the 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 overseas and doing things
that 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– a load, when I refer to a load,
it’s all of the cargo you put in the back of the
aircraft and taking it to a particular airstrip on time,
halfway across the world in weather that’s not so great. And walking away from the
aircraft and going, now 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 unserviceable, and we don’t know
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 get a 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. Elkie, 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, oh, I can’t be a part of that, or if it’s
too hard, 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 majored in chemistry, which
was interesting. I 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 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 you had an idea of what
military life was like before properly absorbing yourself
into 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 early. And leaving high school,
I had no idea what I wanted for career. There are 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 turn up to work. And a job that I would really
love, and have a bit of a wow factor to, really, when someone
inquired about what it is 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 when you’re in 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 all that. If it doesn’t work, I mean,
there’s still opportunities to get out and try other things
in life as well. So the only other thing I would
say is, if you have the opportunity to actually speak
to another woman in the Air Force, and actually ask for her
candid advice and what she feels it’s like, I think
that’s really good. Because only you know you, and
only you know what your left and right of [INAUDIBLE] is,
and by speaking to other women, specifically, in the job
area that you’re looking at, you can get a real feel
for whether this is something for you. Because the Air Force isn’t
a career choice. You’re basically making a
lifestyle choice, and once you join, most categories have
a return of service or a commitment that you
have to pay back. And that’s a reality that you
have to accept, so you need to be sure that it’s a
type of lifestyle that you want to live. And most women, in fact, all
women love it, but it’s probably only because they’ve
done the research beforehand and made sure it was for them. Taylor wants to know, do you
have a separate work life and personal life? It’s a really good question, and
it really depends, in my opinion, on the category
that you are. So as a pilot, particularly
flying the C-17s, we are in high demand, so we operate
around the world, and is a very high temper, at the
squadron, meaning there’s a lot of flying, a lot
of work to be done. So sometimes it can be really
difficult to separate work and personal life, because your
work life becomes your personal life. Because you just spend so much
time with the people that you ‘re flying with, and even
the people that you aren’t flying with. So we have other people that
help operate this squadron, like the admin staff and our
operations staff, and they end up becoming your
personal life. So they kind of blend, and you
can separate, but at the same time, you almost don’t want
to, because they’ve become really good mates. Yeah, Air Force definitely
becomes part of your family, Taylor. In a way, it’s quite easy to
separate your work, like as in we work Monday to Friday
most days. However, usually when we’re
deployed or we’re on exercises, and we’re living in
quite a close network between each other, your personal life
and work life do not separate whatsoever. But usually at home you can
make the time, and the Air Force definitely encourages you
to do that if you want to. Paige would like to know if we
could recommend to do to help prepare for a shift
from civilian life to that of a cadet. Wow, OK. I reckon, for me, and
you might laugh. I was passionate about flying
from a little girl, but I joined Eckerds, and that
was a really good introduction from what– it was just a taste of what
it was going to be like. You know, there’s things
like marching. I’m on your page, because
I did Eckerds as well. So if you haven’t marched
before, it can be quite hard. And picked up a rifle, or a gun,
or had somebody kind of telling you what to do, that’s
really hard to get used to, so I think cadets, if you can
handle it, or if it’s around your area, even if it’s just for
six months, it gives you an idea of what it’s like. Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. Christine wants to know
how did you find the training process. So Christine, that’s a fairly
broad question. I’m not sure if you’re referring
to initial training, or training for a specific
category? Do you want me to go first? Yeah, I’ll let Sam
give her intro. Mine’s a little bit more
cut in definite areas. So when I first joined as an
aircraft technician, so non-commissioned, it was 10
weeks basic training. So all my military training,
like Nat was talking about before, picking up a rifle,
marching, knowing when to salute your officers, learning
the rank structure, and all that sort of thing, the values
and icons of what Air Force and Defense Force want to
instill in all its members. Beyond that, once you pass that
10 weeks, I went on to a 12-month course where it’s basic
technical training for me out at RAAF base Wagga. From there, I just learned
the basics of my entire profession. And once you pass that year,
you then move on and get posted to your location or your
specific aircraft type where training happens again. So at no point during any of
these processes of becoming or learning your career are you
expected to know it. They teach you from day
one until today. Like today, I still learn, so
I knew how to work an F-111, and then six years later, I’m
now working on a Super Hornet, and that training process
always continues. Yeah, it really depends on which
avenue you’re going in, so ADFA, the academy, you can
look at it as a three-year training process, because you’re
there for three years doing your degree. This is for officer entry. If you’re not interested in
ADFA, you can go to officer training school, which is significantly shorter in duration. I think it’s about less than
a year’s training. But, like Sam said,
they really step you through the process. And then for those looking to
become a pilot, it’s pretty much a two-year pilot training
process, and it’s quite progressive. It does have a relatively
fast rate, but it’s not unachievable. The training process is
demanding, but that’s why you almost join the military as
well, because you want to be pushed, and you want to be
challenged, and you’ll be surprised at how enjoyable
you actually find it. Kaitlan wants to know, how do
you manage working in the Air Force and seeing family
and friends? It depends on where you’re
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 to 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. I actually don’t find it overly difficult to manage that. It’s quite a really
good balance. I actually joined the Air Force,
Kaitlan, 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
if you want to. We get time off at Christmas, so
it’s just about making time for your family for when
you need to see them. And the Air Force is flexible to
in allowing you to do that. Karen wants to know, as women,
how did we both cope with the physical demands of training,
as the other aspects of military life? I’m going to be honest
and say that I loved every minute of it. I’m a bit of a tomboy
in a sense. I grew up with four
older brothers. I didn’t mind getting
rough and dirty, and things like that. I play a lot of sports, a little
basketball, netball, all during high school. The physical demands were
actually a challenge for me. I actually set them as goals, so
if they said to run 2.4, I was like, how fast
can I do this? And you know I really
did enjoy it. As well as the other aspects of
military life, I actually just thought it was a learning
curve like I learned something new. And I guess the Air Force
is all about that. I think, Karen, one thing to
be cognizant of is that the physical demands of training,
they’re not unachievable. It requires a little bit of
training, and a little bit of commitment. And by commitment, I mean,
exercising a couple of times a week, but they’re, by no
means, unachievable. And I think you end up enjoying
keeping fit as well. And in the pilot case, you
kind of need to be fit as well, because sometimes you’re
down the back and you’re helping push things around and
whatnot, and you want to be able to mix it with the guys
and all that type of stuff. So you want to have a level
of fitness there as well. Other aspects of military life,
it really depends on the character and the category
that you’re in. But I think every woman
eventually develops her own coping mechanisms. And the Air Force has some
really good systems out there at the moment. There’s networks where you can
go and speak to other females. And there’s mentoring programs
for those women who feel more isolated than others. So there’s definitely tools
out there to help you. But military life is different,
but it’s actually great once you get
the swing of it. Carol want to know, how has the
Air Force helped you to develop skills and otherwise
grow as people? Wow, well, I’ve got
a lot of skills. I’ve got a couple of, well,
I’ve flown four different aircraft types, so I essentially
know how to fly four different aircraft types. I am a qualified air traffic
controller, because I did that beforehand as well. And there in themselves
is some pretty decent skills, I think. Grow as a person, that’s a
really great question. When I first joined the Air
Force, I had two brothers and a sister, so I would classify
myself as a bit of a tomboy as well. But I really learnt to stand
up for myself a lot more. And I fell into a really false
premise that I thought I had to be one of the boys to fit
in, particularly on pilot’s course, which it’s quite
unique in how pilot’s course operates. And I was the only female in
my pilot’s course, which is not the case these days. But I kind of lost who I was,
and I quickly realized that wasn’t the way to go. And that actually being a
female, and owning being a female is perfectly OK,
perfectly acceptable and, in fact, what you should
be doing. Because the guys will respect
you more if you are confident within yourself. And that’s how I grew. It made me realize that I
actually didn’t make need to make any excuses for the fact
that I was a female. And I had every right to be
there as much as they did. And, in fact, I could do the job
as well as, if not better than them, and so they better
just get out of my way. And that was the attitude in the
end that really helped me through pilot’s course. And to this day, I don’t have
that, I guess, tenacious attitude, because I’m very
comfortable in who I am. And I know that I could do my
job well, and I don’t have to prove it so much. I just, I do it. And it’s just everyday
life now. Yeah, like Air Force is big on
its core values and morals, that 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’s OK to fly. And knowing that you’ve done
your job 100%, and you know exactly what you’re 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 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. Allison wants to know
how we were 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 a 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 knew
I wanted to fly. And so I went to ADFA,
and haven’t looked back since then. Krista, would like to know,
would you ever see yourself in another job? I’ve thought about that a lot
lately, Krista, because, as it female flying, you get to
a point where it’s quite difficult to balance
relationships and wanting to have a family with work. And it is perfectly doable
in the Air Force. But you do query yourself, so
I’ve thought of leaving. I haven’t. Purely because the Air Force
gives you great opportunities. It’s good pay, and I’ve got
fantastic friends, but I don’t see myself doing anything other
than flying-related. Whether I’m actually going to be
flying the rest of my life, I don’t know. But I think I’ll definitely
stay in aviation. For myself, when I would see
myself in another job, I really enjoy my job
and what I do. Sometimes I’m very
similar to Nat. I just question where I’m
at in life, like I’m 28. I’m like, do I want
to settle down? Do I want to have a family? What does my partner
want to do? What is his career goals? Where do we see ourselves
in five years? I think to say, have we ever
pictured ourselves doing something else, you can’t
really deny that fact. I think everyone looks
out there for all the opportunities and what will
work best for them. But to be honest, nine years
later, and we’re still here. So the Air Force offers
so many benefits. And really, at the end of the
day, when you weight up the sums if it’s money, lifestyle,
the support that you get with job that you do, Air Force ticks
a lot of those boxes that sometimes are really
hard to say no to. Chevon, is there any possibility
that women will ever fly FA-18s? On that note, yes. I currently have a few ACOs
currently working on Super Hornets with me now. Her name is Jo. She’s currently done a Air Force
video recently that we chuckle about with each other. And she flies regularly. She flies two or three times a
day depending on the workload and what the Super Hornets
are required to fly. Nat may know more. Yes, so Jo, the girl that Sam
was referring to, sits in the back, so she’s an air
combat officer. So Chevon, you might be
referring to will women ever pilot F-18s? There is no restriction and
no reason why women can’t. We just haven’t had a
woman do that yet. And there’s varying reasons
for that, but there’s definitely no Air Force
restrictions saying we can’t do it or anything like that. So it’s just a matter of
somebody achieving it one day, and I’m sure it definitely
will happen. Nicole wants to know what made
you choose the Air Force instead of civilian
employment? When I was growing up, I just
wanted to be a pilot. And my parents didn’t have the
financial background to help me fly to go civilian and
all that type of stuff. So for me on my own, the option
was to join the Air Force, because the Air Force is
fantastic in that will pay for a degree for myself. It will also pay for all of my
pilot training, and I’m now flying C-17s around the world. So for me, that’s well and truly
above getting a Quantus cadetship and flying
for Quantus. And taking 10 years to get a
captaincy and all the type of stuff that goes with that. So that’s the reason why. The biggest choice made for me,
Nicole, was the fact that I got paid while
I was training. So at 19 I wasn’t overly
cashed out. I got sent away. I did my training. I got paid while training. I was housed, fed, boarded,
the whole lot. And really, at the end of the
day, at the end of my training, I had a job to
go to that was going to continue to pay me. Whereas, Uni, you finish Uni,
you’ve got HECS debts potentially, and there’s no
guarantee you have a job. And then Air Force offers you
that, so in terms of job security and knowing where
you’re going to be at the end of the day, is so comforting. And for me, that’s what
really sold the deal on the Air Force. Nicole still wants to know,
why did you choose the Air Force instead of say, the Navy
or the aviation roles? For me, Air Force,
I don’t know. I like the colors. I can’t say that I don’t
like the uniform, to be totally honest. Well, Navy do their whites. Yeah, Navy wears white. I’m terrible in white. To be honest, Army was
definitely something that I did look in to. When you look into it, you have
to be mindful of where Army goes and what they do. The same with Navy. Ask yourself the question,
can you be on a boat if you choose the Navy? Air Force, to me, I liked
where the Air Force bases were located. I liked the idea of the certain
aircraft types that I could potentially work on. And really, for me, that’s
what sold it. Now being in the Air Force, I’m
just going to sell you to the Air Force, because
it’s still the greatest out of all three. Well, the Air Force, by nature
of the name is about the air. And the Navy and the Army, their
focus is very different. So the Army is about infantry,
and their aviation branch is basically there to help
support the infantry. And the Navy is about
boats, and they have an aviation branch. But the Air Force, it’s
all about flying, all about the air. So for myself, it was because
I loved aviation and flying, it was a fairly easy choice. But the other thing is the
lifestyle is very different, Air Force versus Navy
versus Army. So Navy you will go out to sea
depending on your role, and you will spend a bit
of time out at sea. Army aviation, the guys tend to
spend quite a bit of time at field as well. And the other obvious difference
is that Navy and Army fly choppers and Air
Force fly fixed-wing. So if you’re really high or bent
on flying choppers and doing that, you would
choose Navy or Army. Sam wants to know, what is the
toughest thing you’ve had to get through in the Air Force,
either physically or mentally, and how did you get
through it? For myself, Sam, the toughest
thing was probably pilot’s course, just because it
went for two years. And it was every flight you
had to pass, so there’s definitely leeway to not pass
and whatnot, but there’s a fair amount of leeway you get. And every flight prepared
you for the next, but incrementally, they got
quite a bit harder, and harder, and harder. So how I actually prepared for
that was a lot, a lot of self-talk and building up my
self-confidence, because that’s the thing that
let me down. As females, we tend to do one
little thing wrong, but we may have done 99% right, but you
focus on that one little thing that you did wrong. And you will allow that to
bring down your whole performance. And I kind of had to get over
that to get over the fact that I wasn’t perfect. And, you know, the flight in
general was good, and I can get through this. So I had to become a lot more
tenacious, and a lot tougher mentally and back
myself mentally. For myself, it’s definitely
the mental issue, just the amount of study during that
year of the technical training, it’s a lot
of information in a short amount of time. And then having to retain it to
know that while you learn all this information, you may
not touch an aircraft for another eight months or nine,
that you’re going to have to recall that information
and use it hands-on. So just knowing that it’s not
something you can learn, pick up, and then dump, like
as humans we have a tendency to do. You had to know that at
the end of the day. You had to regurgitate
some of this stuff. Mind you, it’s only a year, and
once you get through it, it’s pretty good. So now it’s fairly good. In saying that, the mental stuff
and the testing still continues to happen today. Air Force, we’re always
improving, and reteaching, and relearning, reassessing,
reevaluating, and that’s something that you
get used to. Kaitlan, she wants to know,
what are your living facilities like? Kaitlan, for me personally,
I live in Brisbane. I obviously work out at RAAF
base Amberley, which is out at Ipswich, which is about
a 40k drive. I choose to live in Brisbane. Defense helps me in the sense
that they help me pay into my rent, so I get 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. The main facilities during
your training, generally, well, you have to be on base. So 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. And a female, you’ll be
separated from the males. So once you’re in training,
you have to be on base. Then once you finish training,
you can live wherever you like really. So you can have the facilities
at whatever level you choose. Nicole wants to know which
aircraft is your favorite? Well, mine’s a C-17,
because I fly it. However, the Caribou, which
many of you may or may not know has a special place in my
heart, because it was an awesome little aircraft. And yeah, it’s pretty cool. Oh, that’s a really hard
question for me. It’s the Hornet. Well, yes and no. I’m going to give you an
example, I’ll say I used to work on F-111s, quite
an old aircraft. But they did things like they
went twice the speed of sound. I worked really long days
to keep them in the air. They were emotionally
challenging, because you would work on them for days, and they
still wouldn’t be fixed. But when they did fly, it was
really enjoyable, like I really liked seeing them
in the sky and doing what they’re doing. I mean, who doesn’t miss
a dump and burn? I mean, let’s be honest,
we love it. But in saying that now, I feel
like I get to maintain and fix like a new Ferrari. Yeah, we’ve got some awesome
aircraft in the Air Force, and they’re quite modern. So Sam and I, I guess our
favorites were the old ones that broke. But the new ones are fun now. We fly more often. Diana, do you find that it’s any
harder or easier to have a partner and maintain
a relationship? That’s a really mature question,
and something that you probably should know about
before joining the Air Force. I personally, find it harder,
just because of the nature of my job. I work mainly with men, and your
partner can sometimes be quite intimidated by that. Maintaining a relationship can
be difficult, because I’m away a lot, but you’ll find that the
majority of females tend to date, marry other Air Force
or Army or Navy members. It’s purely because you work in
close compliance together, but you tend to understand
each other’s situations. And that being said, there are
definitely girls who date civilians in and whatnot, but
I’d say it’s kind of more on the other spectrum. Diana, I can help you
out with that. I actually met my partner
in the Air Force. We were actually working in the
same building for about four years. We obviously no longer work
together now, moving on to different platforms. However, like Nat was saying,
I found that we had a better connection. He understood my job. He understood military
lifestyle. In saying that, I know plenty
of people that I work with that have partners outside who
are not Defense, and it works just as well. Air Force encourages de facto
relationships, and marriages, and all that sort of stuff. So it honestly is really up to
you and how you communicate with your partner. But that’s a personal thing, and
the Air Force will support you no matter what. Julia, what was involved
in pilot’s course. That’s all yours. A lot. It’s changed significantly
since I went through. I graduated December, 2004,
which is when I got my wings, so it’s been quite a
bit of time since. And they have changed
pilot’s course. So initially, I could talk for
quite at length about this, but I won’t. So initially, you go to Tamworth
in South Wales to a place called BFTS, which is
Basic Flying Training School. And you fly a really
small aircraft. It’s called a CT-4. It’s a single prop aircraft,
two-seater, and you fly around with an instructor. And you’ll do general flying,
which is called GF. You’ll do instrument flying,
which is called IF, and you’ll basically just get a feel for
what it’s like being in the air and controlling an aircraft
and making decisions, and all that type of stuff. If you’re successful at BFTS,
you’ll move on to a faster aircraft, more complicated,
and that’s a PC-9. So Roulettes, for those of you
out there who don’t know what PC-9s are, the Roulettes
fly PC-9s. And that’s at RAAF base Pearce
over in Western Australia, and that’s number two flying
training school. The course there is quite a
bit longer, and a lot more involved, and you’re
flying a bit more high-performanced aircraft. So you’ll once again
do general flying. You’ll do instrument flying,
but now you’ll also do navigation. You’ll also do aerobatics. You’ll also do formation
flying. And then you’ll start to do more
advanced components of what I’ve just mentioned. Interspersed with this at some
point, you have to go and do what’s called combat survival
training, which basically teaches you how to survive in
a desert jungle or marine environment should you, one day,
crash or have to survive in those environments. And that’s a couple of week
course up in Townsville up in North Queensland. And they basically run you
through how to survive in those environments. So other than what I’ve actually
described, that’s what physically involved in
pilot’s course, but there’s quite a bit of study. There’s is a level
of expectation. It can be quite busy, but at the
same time, you get plenty of time off. You get to stay in Perth, which
is beautiful for any people who have been there. You fly an awesome little
aircraft, the PC-9, and you get some really good
instruction. So by the end of it, you’re
actually quite confident and you graduate as a little captain
on a PC-9 basically. 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 like go to work everyday,
and I like the challenge. I like the unknown. I like not knowing what’s wrong
with an aircraft, I get to pull it apart, and put
it back together. I picked up some qualifications
in my time as maintainer. I’ve picked up my engine
runner’s authorization. And so, for me, that’s a joy
I really, or a kick I get out of my job. And I get to get into a Super
Hornet and actually start up both engines, fun all
the flight controls and do systems checks. It’s something that I really
have a pleasure in doing. And, I mean, I get to
teach that as well. In terms of working with
most of the guys, some days are tough. I’m not going to lie to you. The boys can be boys, and
they can be mean. But then, so can some
of the girls. So I guess you take each
day as it comes. You know, you kind of
get used to it. And you do sort of become one
of the boys, but at the same time, you have to remember
who you are. You’re still a girl, and I
definitely agree with Natalie and what she said earlier, is
if you know who you are and you respect yourself, and you do
what you can do, and you do it to the best ability, then
they’re going to respect you at the end of the day and
everyone’s going to get along. Dana, have you ever felt
uncomfortable as a woman in the Air Force? There have been times when I
have felt uncomfortable. And it was probably a component
of being a little bit immature, and
recognizing– like, boys can be immature
as well, and probably not handling it is as good
as I could have. But it’s challenging being in
the Air Force, and I was the only girl in my pilot’s
course. I was the only girl in
my technical course. Yeah. Nat and I had a chat earlier,
and where we were discussing when we walk into the mess,
sometimes we’re the only female in the entire room, and
sometimes you feel like there are eyes on you. And that can be a little bit
uncomfortable, but it’s definitely something that
you get used to. You get used to it, and it’s
funny, because you kind of wear it as a badge of honor in
a really strange way, because you’re like, well, yeah, sure,
I’m one of not many, but I made it, and I’m going
to be proud of it. Here to stay. Yeah. Jade, have you ever
been deployed? For myself personally, Jade, my
aircraft hasn’t gone into a deployed scenario where I’ve
gone overseas where we may see war-like scenarios. I have only been on exercises or
training exercises where my locations have been to red flag
where we might enter work with like the US or British
military and do courses and exercises like that. However, I do believe Nat
can probably help you better with that. Yeah, so with C-17s, we often
go into the Middle East in area of operations, which
is generally speaking Afghanistan. And with the aircraft, it is
very efficient, so we only go into Afghanistan a few days at
a time, and then we basically fly back to Australia. So I’ve done that twice. So we don’t need to physically
locate over there for months at a time like other aircraft
types, like Hercs or P-3s, purely because we have the
ability to fly to and from Australia quite easily. Julian, is the camaraderie
among the women strong? Or can there be instances
of competition. It is strong. It is definitely strong, but
there are definitely instances of competition. I think most people who join the
Air Force are, both male and female, are of the alpha
type personalities, so quite confident and proud of
themselves, and a bit of egos. So when you have those
personalities clash, sometimes there can be quite a
bit of competition. Definitely on pilot’s course
competition, because you are actually competing for
an aircraft type. So the better you go in pilot’s
course of better aircraft type, you potentially
will end up spending your career on. But I’ve got to say that my best
friend is a female in the Air Force, and we’ve
got a bond that won’t ever be broken. And where there are instances
of competition, if anything, it’s fleeting in
my experience. Yeah, no, for me, there
is no competition. Well, I haven’t had any
instances of it. To me, it’s a camaraderie. To be totally honest, for
almost five years of my nine-year career, I worked
with no women. So no one in my actual area or
trade per se that I work with, so for me to finally have a
female, another female that I work with has just
been fantastic. I feel like I get a little
bit more girl time– [INTERPOSING VOICES] So on that sense, yeah, no, I
really enjoy having another female in the workplace
with me. Ivy, does your partner move to
different places with you? What did you have to do
to juggle between the partner and work? OK, my partner usually
moves with me depending on where we go. Seeing as we’re both Air Force,
we can actually apply to go to a same location, so a
RAAF base where we may be able to pick up different
jobs or different roles at that location. However, Air Force is also very
open to giving a partner a leave without pay if someone
else is going to a different location, and their
career becomes the priority, for example. So again, you can juggle it,
like I’m also aware that say I decided to get pregnant, and I
needed to move closer to my family, then I know the Air
Force would be willing to compromise in that area. And we might be, say move back
to Perth if that was going to help me out in any way,
shape, or form. It depends on the recognition
you have with your partner. If he’s just your boyfriend,
and the Air Force doesn’t officially recognize him, it’s
quite difficult to turn around and say to the Air Force, hey,
I need to move to Perth, because my boyfriend’s
in Perth. Because you have joined the Air
Force, not your partner, so the managing your career, not
your partner’s career, if you are recognized in a de facto
relationship or you’re married, the Air Force will try
its utmost to co-locate yourself and your partner. There are instances, though,
with the two different careers just don’t match up. So Navy and an Air Force person
dating, it’s sometimes can be quite difficult
to post both of them to the same location. But in those instances, there
are options of live without pay or perhaps working
out of category. So you may not work within your
trained category, purely because you’re electing
to go somewhere to be with your partner. So it’s a challenge. It’s doable, but there may be
times where you need to accept that you may not be with
your partner for a short amount of time. It’s just the challenges of
being in the Air Force. Catherine, for myself, did you
find you relate differently to the boys in pilot’s course? How did Air Force accommodate
this? Catherine, excellent question. Yes, I 100% did. As you’ve rightly pointed
out, girls learn very differently to men. We think differently. We process differently. We respond differently to words,
to visual acuity, to instructional technique
and everything. There’s a myriad of things. What I ended up doing on
pilot’s course was– I’ll just give you an example. I was shown how to do a loop. And the instructor will talk
you through it, and then you do a loop. And I would find that I have
to go back to my room after the flight, and I kind of have
to write down exactly what I did, because I had to
remember the steps. It was quite procedural. And that was because I didn’t
have confidence in myself to actually just go and do it,
whereas the guys would just go, oh, yeah, I can do a loop. Dut, dut, dut, yep,
there it is. I was like, I can’t,
how do you do that? So I found I had to really write
things down and a lot of repetition that really
got in my head. So I found that I
was, in certain aspects, reteaching myself. The Air Force when I was in,
didn’t really, when I was in pilot’s course, didn’t really
accommodate for it. But that being said, men learn
differently as well, so they didn’t really come and aid
it for the guys either. I asked for an instructor change
quite a few times when I was at 2FTS, so
flying the PC-9. Because I recognized quite early
on I wasn’t responding to my instructor’s technique
of how he taught me. And they were responsive to
that, and I got a new instructor, and it
was brilliant. Just the way he spoke to me, he
was more ensuring with how I thought, and I wish
I’d done it earlier. So flying was a lot easier. I know at 2FTS at the moment. They’re very responsive to
matching up the character of the Boggie pilots or the junior
pilots personal pilot’s course with the instructor. And they will try and match
instructional techniques and personalities to try and get
the best blend and the best outcome for the pilot. Jessica, I was wondering what
are the pros and cons of officer versus general entry? So Jess, when you say general
entry, does she mean you might mean non-commissioned? Yeah. With the jobs. As an officer, you can do only
a certain range of jobs, and as a non-commissioned,
you can– Say, yeah, you really– Jessica, it’s really dependent
on what you want to do. So whatever the roles that are
being offered, if that’s what you’re chasing, and you think
that that’s what you want, then definitely do
it on the side. Know that you’re still going to
get paid while you do your training, and it’s going
to be exactly the same for general entry. It’s just, really at the end of
the day, there’s going to be a rank difference, so you
might have chevrons or you might have stripes really. So definitely choose the job
that’s going to suite you. Tristan, do any Air Force
people have pets? Yes. Yes. I don’t know if it’s to their
detriment [INAUDIBLE] pet. I’m not sure. Tristan, personally,
I don’t have a pet. I couldn’t do it. I’m usually away more often than
I’m not, and I live in a two-story townhouse that
has a concrete floor. Tristan, my partner has a dog. We’re both pilots, so it can
be quite challenging, like when he goes away, I go away,
it’s like, well, what do you do with the dog? So you tend to rely on a lot
of friends, or you’ll have like a set person
you’ll go to. But it can definitely
be challenging. I’ve had to give away dogs,
because I just felt so bad leaving them at home,
because you just couldn’t look after them. But yet, plenty of Air Force
people have pets, yeah. Libby, are there other jobs
available to women in the Air Force other than pilot and
aviation-based roles? Yes, definitely. Absolutely. There’s heaps. There’s administration. There is operations. There is medical roles. There’s air traffic control. There is logistics. There is intelligence. There is– Well, you’ve done real well. And there is environmental
type of roles. There is ACO, well, ACO
is aviation-based. Clerical type of roles. There is, oh, gee, AGS, so you
can join up to be security. There are dog handlers. There are [? fires, ?] so you fight the fires. There are a lot of
other roles. And they’re all listed on the
Air Force website, the Defense Job’s website. Tristan, do you get to
choose which base you get stationed at? Tristan, say that’s a
very open question. It’s very much dependent on how
you decide to go into it. Do you want to choose a base
because of lifestyle reasons? Or do you want to choose
a base based on aircraft, for example? So myself, I chose lifestyle,
really, at the beginning of the day. I chose Amberley, because
I wanted to go live in Queensland just to mix it up a
little bit after living WA my entire life. Hence, I got to work
on F-111s. In saying that, I definitely
through my training for my year, technical training, the
better off you did and the highest that you ranked, top of
the class usually got first pick on posting preferences. So maybe just keep
that in mind. I don’t know if it’s changed. I have heard rumors
that it has. But also, later on in your
career, you get to put in your preferences. So after five years at F-111s,
I got to put in to say, move to Richmond and work on Hercs
if I chose to do so. I was actually lucky enough to
move onto Super Hornets, but the options are definitely
there for you. I think it depends on what
category you are. Yep. So as a pilot, if you get, at
the end of pilot’s course, if you get Hercules, well,
Hercules are based in Richmond, which is at Sydney,
so that’s where you’re going to spend the majority
of your career. If you’re an air traffic
controller, it depends on where you graduate on your air
traffic control course as to where you get sent. Yeah, every base is an option,
but it really depends on the category that you’re in and what
you can actually expect to do in that job. Margaret wants to know, does
being in the Air Force impact your decision to settle down
or start a family? For myself, definitely,
Margaret, because having a family and flying is doable,
but it’s quite difficult, especially when you partnered
with another pilot. The Air Force is assigned to
introduce policy to help with that, but it is still
quite difficult. For myself, having a family will
probably mean not flying for a certain period of time,
and that is a big decision for myself, because I’ve worked
pretty hard to get where I’m at. And it’s not something you
just, and I love it. I absolutely love walking out
to the jet, starting up and taking it flying. It is, yeah, it’s hard. And some women make
that choice a lot easier than others. And that’s just a personal
preference. And some of them decide to
leave, because they just can’t juggle that. But I won’t lie to you
and say it’s easy. I’m going to be honest,
Margaret, Air Force does impact your decision. How much that affects you is
obviously up to you and the people you can talk
to around you. And how willing the Air Force is
to accommodate your needs. However, though, if you’re in
the Air Force, and you do choose to settle down and start
a family, Air Force will support you 100% of the way. I, personally, I’ve been a
little career-driven up until this point, but I’m 28. I just got engaged. My partner and I are looking at
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 when we decide to do have children. So yeah, it does make an impact,
but I guess every job does at some extent, too. Jessica, I was wanting to know,
I was looking at a trade and avionics and aircraft
technicians both interests 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 I got asked
by my Defense 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 also than doing it in my head. In that way, he said that I
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. It’s not something, 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 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. Sophie would like to know, who
are the people that train you and mentor you when you
begin your career? Once again, depending on the
category that you go into. For myself, all of my
instructors were all our pilots, current pilots, who had
done instructor school, so they had learned how
to instruct. Mentoring, I gelled with quite a
few of the senior pilots out there, and I really used them to
bounce some ideas off, and just concepts off. It was like, I just
don’t get this. Can you please help me. And they’re more than
willing to do that. So it was kind of opportune. The Air Force now has a
mentoring program for female pilots that come in where you
will be basically allocated, or given the opportunity to
have a female mentor pilot that you can talk to. And I still have mentors
to be honest. I still bounce things off people
that I believe know their stuff. Yeah, Air Force is definitely
mentor and competency-based training. So for myself, Sophie, I’m the
same, like I only got taught by people who have done my job
and have done 20 years or more in my technical trade. I still have people
teaching me. I have a lot of other aircraft
technicians coming off different platforms. So people coming from Hercs come
from Super Hornets, and everyone has their own
skill-based knowledge. And the Air Force tries to
spread that out, and so they teach everyone to the best
ability that they have. And I teach to this day now. So back in the day I had someone
that’s now my Sergeant teaching me as a corporal. The rank structure, as you move
up, you have a tendency from learning, to learn teach,
and instruct from there. I’d say it’s almost an
expectation in the Air Force. So you know, as a Captain, I
will mentor the co-pilots, and say, look, you should
do it like this, you should do like that. And I’ve got more senior people
to me mentoring me. So it’s a bit of a cycle. Seth, do you think the Air Force
is providing you the skills that will be beneficial
if you choose to leave the Air Force? Definitely for me, I think my
confidence and my leadership skills have just improved
indefinitely. I love what the Air Force
has given me technical training-wise. I have a certificate
in aviation. I can take that out into the
workforce if choose to leave, and then continue to grow on
those skills if I have to. For me, definitely, I’m a pilot,
so they taught me how to fly an aircraft. I also have an air traffic
control category as well. So I could step into the
civilian air traffic control world if I would like to. I think that regardless of what
category you’re looking at, the Air Force, through
their leadership role and through the managerial– because even the lower ranks are
managing to some degree, some number of people. So you really get used to
managing projects, people, so that’s actually really valued
in the wider civilian community more so than I
think we understand. So there’s multiple skills that
the Air Force gives you. Christine wants to know that
once a woman has had a child in the Air Force, what are the
stages she may go through to return to work? Once again, it’s very
category specific. I can only speak for the flying
side of things that once you fall pregnant,
you have to stop flying in the Air Force. And that also goes for if you’re
doing IBF treatment. So at the initial stages, you’re
out for nine months. And then most women will want
to take up to a year off to basically be with their child. And the Air Force offers
that, don’t they? And the Air Force offers
fantastic maternity leave. They offer three months at full
pay, or you can take that at half pay, so you can go
six months at half time. And for those who have been in
for longer than 10 years, you’ve got your long service
leave option at the end of that. You can take either at
full pay or half pay. So you can essentially,
you could take up to a year off at half pay. The Air Force will allow
you to take up to two years off per child. And whether that’s a combination
of maternity leave, or long-service leave,
or leave without pay, it’s completely up to you as a Mom. Stepping back into work will
depend on when you’re ready to come back in. In the flying game, because you
haven’t been flying, you are behind your peers, because
you need to fly to be current. So the Air Force does have
processes to step you back in, and to get you up to currency
and to standards and whatnot. But you have to acknowledge
that. You’ve been out of flying
for three years, and that has a detriment. But for your job– Yeah, for my job, it’s pretty
much you can come back. You just do re-certification
training. It might take you anywhere
between three to six months to get back up to speed. And then you’re pretty
much good to go. 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, I when I first started
out, so nine years ago, I actually thought this supportive
network was a little bit lacking. I would like to say definitely
in the last three or four years that’s supportive
network for women has increased dramatically. I’m seen 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, look, I’ve been
in 15 years. I’ve made so many friends. I’ve worked at lots of bases. And I’m in contact with a
lot of my girlfriends, 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 from the
street, and I’ll ring you ahead what’s going on. And the friendship network
is fantastic. And the support network, we have
Wings, which is Women in Nontraditional Roles essentially
that you get together and you talk
to other females. The bases are actually getting
quite large now, so Amberley has a lot of aircraft and
different agencies there. So you tend to mingle
a bit more with a lot of other women. And I guess it’s just the Air
Force is getting bigger, but at the same time it’s getting
smaller, because there’s a lot more supportive networks
out there. So to reach out and to find
somebody who’s going through something similar to you, is
actually not that difficult. There’s definitely
network there. You’ve just got to look
for them, that’s all. Now that concludes tonight’s
Webinar. We had some really good
questions tonight, and we hope we provided you with the
information you need. If you’d like to watch this
evening’s broadcast again, it will be available online
at Defense Job’s Website next week. Thanks for joining us, and
have a great night.

Tony wyaad

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