April 25 is ANZAC Day, a national day of commemoration. Today we are honoured to share with you an interview with Eleanor, who is currently serving in the Royal Australian Air Force. We are humbled that Eleanor has taken time to share her experience with us, and sincerely thank Eleanor and her family for their service to our country.
Eleanor, you’re currently serving in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Can you tell us what you do and what you enjoy most about it?
I am an Air Intelligence Analyst specialising in Signals Intelligence. This involves analysing radar signals and communications systems for situational awareness, threat warning and indications and warnings. This analysis is then used to create reports for distribution to the wider intelligence community. The job can be both exciting and challenging, but incredibly satisfying to see something you’ve worked hard on help shape current operations and activities.
With so many career options to choose from, why did you choose the RAAF? Can you tell us about your training?
I finished school and had no idea what to do. University didn’t interest me, although I knew that the part time retail job I was working couldn’t last. The military has been a part of my family for multiple generations, but it was never something that I had considered too seriously until I started to look carefully at what options were open to me. A full time career, good pay, plus a host of other great benefits sounded pretty appealing. I made the commitment, took an oath, and headed off for training.
There are two basic types of training that all new Air Force members go through. Recruit training, and Initial Employment Training, and both give you a number of skills that you will use throughout the rest of your military career. Recruit training sets up the fundamentals of life in the military, whereas the employment training gives you job specific skill sets to carry out your day to day duties.
What’s a typical workday like?
What are some of the challenges you face in your line of work, and how do you overcome them?
The pressure to be able to produce actionable intelligence outcomes with sometimes limited resources can be difficult and frustrating. You also have the added weight of knowing that your work is directly shaping operations and helping to protect people in potentially deadly situations. You need to be resilient under pressure, however it can be in those tough times that you will see the best in people shine through.
As a member of the RAAF, can you tell us what ANZAC Day means to you? How do you commemorate ANZAC Day?
ANZAC Day is such an individual and personal day for so many people. Everyone remembers those that have gone before us in their own way. I think it’s vital that we as a nation continue to commemorate, not celebrate, those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for all that we have and enjoy at home. My family history extends to great aunts who were Army Nurses in World War 1 and great uncle who was killed on-board HMAS Australia when it was struck by a Japanese kamikaze aircraft. My grandfather was in the Army as a Commando in World War 2, and fought in the Pacific. His role, amongst many, was one of front line intelligence collection. My father was a Special Radio Operator in the Royal Australian Navy.
I do try my best to not miss a Dawn Service. For me that is a time to reflect on those who have taken it upon themselves, and not always voluntarily, to put on their uniform and get on with the job. That is what the original ANZAC’s did, and that is why their courage, determination and sacrifice is one that should not be forgotten.
After Dawn Service, breakfast is a must. In places like your local RSL, it is one of the best times to chat to older returned service men and women, who take pride in telling you their story, usually with much laughter. Sometimes however, the story is a sadder one, or is about one of their mates who never never made it home. All it takes is a listening ear, and you may be pleasantly surprised what unexpected history you will learn.
From there the day turns to my own mates, and the chance to catch up with people that I may not have seen for some time. Sometimes it feels like long lost family members that you haven’t seen, and when you finally get that chance to say hello it can be as if almost no time has passed.
Can you tell us about your most memorable ANZAC Day?
I’ve had two ANZAC Days that really stand out for me as memorable. The first was whilst serving on operations in the Middle East. I had been deployed for almost five months, and was starting to look towards going home soon. We had a very small number of New Zealand Air Force members on the same base, and together the two nations stood side by side and started the ceremony just as the sun began to rise over the desert. It really brought home for me the sacrifices that people had made over the years, and the unfathomable distance between them and their loved ones. Distance not made easy, with telephone calls and email connections we were able to appreciate at that time.
The second day was a very personal one for me. It was the first time I had the opportunity to march along side my father. Dad had served in the Royal Australian Navy before he met my mother, and served on multiple ships and bases across Australia. Dad never spoke a lot about his navy career, and it wasn’t until I joined the Air Force that he started to open up more about it. Dad had become quite ill over recent years, and found it harder to partake and march in ANZAC Day activities. The year we marched together was the last year Dad was able to march at all. Dad passed away two years later, so I didn’t get another chance to march beside him as he was unable to march the distance of the parade route. I’m not sure I should have been allowed in that group with Dad, and my Air Force uniform stood out significantly against the Navy ones, but I am so grateful to have that memory of him.
Aussies are often looking for ways to support members of the Australian Defence Force – what do you think are some of the best ways they can show support?
One of the biggest things that we really need to get behind as a nation is to support our younger vets. There is an increasing problem of mental health issues arising from military service, and not just from combat operations. It’s important to remember that both physical or psychological injuries can occur whilst conducting your day to day duties at home. Organisations such as the RSL and Soldier On are doing amazing things for people to help not only with physical rehabilitation, but also with the psychological health as well. Soldier On was started by ex-military members and can help to provide opportunities for those who have left the military to find meaningful employment, which can be a struggle for some. They also have well-being activities such as coffee catch ups or yoga; and provide educational support where it is needed. Supporting charities like Soldier On allows them to continue to grow and provide services for those that have served our country.
If there anything else you would like to share?
ANZAC Day is a day of commemoration. It is a day when we say a collective thank you to those who have played a part in shaping this amazing country of ours, and to our friends from other nations who have stood beside us. It can feel like a thankless job at times, so to hear it from you on a day like ANZAC Day can make it all the more meaningful.
Learn more about ANZAC Day by visiting the Australian War Memorial website here.