The Long Road from Antonov Pilot to Logistics Officer
1 February 2016
A world away from flying an Antonov for the Indian Air Force, Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Derek is ensuring the Air Task Group logistical needs are taken care of in the Middle East.
FLTLT Derek joined the Indian Air Force in 1987 as a pilot and went on to fly over 4700 hours on the Antonov An-32 twin-turboprop military transport aircraft.
"My first exposure to flying was in a twin seat Ardhra glider where I earned my wings" FLTLT Derek said.
"I then flew a jet trainer for a year and a half before graduating and moving onto the Antonov An-32 which I flew for eleven years.
"I went on numerous deployments and operations with the Indian Air Force, flying so much that I used to live out of a suitcase."
Love for a girl, and his employer's regulations on marriage, saw his exit from the Indian Air Force and subsequent migration to Australia. Once settled he took up jobs as a dairy manager by day, restocking shelves for a supermarket chain by night and driving a Daimler limousine wedding car on the weekends.
All the while he was updating his flying qualifications.
After gaining his Australian residency, the opportunity presented itself for him to enlist with the Royal Australian Air Force as an Aircraft Traffic Controller.
"During my Air Traffic Controller training, I was given the opportunity to go back to training as a pilot in the RAAF", FLTLT Derek said.
"After much debate, I decided against it as I didn't want to start my military flying career from the beginning again.
"Around this same time, my priorities were becoming clear and they revolved around my family.
"I re-categorised to Logistics Officer to allow more stability for my family."
Now deployed on Op OKRA and marking ten years in the RAAF, FLTLT Derek has the responsibility to look after logistics for the F/A-18A Hornet fighter-attack aircraft.
These duties include supply, explosive ordinance delivery, clothing, governance, and logistical operations.
With the Air Task Group having established itself and its operations, FLTLT Derek and his team are working hard to establish robust procedures, governance and admin without losing focus of the bigger picture.
"We've been running twelve-hour shifts to ensure the aircraft maintainers have logistical support whenever they are working," FLTLT Derek said.
"With the long shifts, there hasn’t been too much free time so it's been important to keep my team motivated.
"One of my motivators and highlights has been the five-kilometre fun-runs on base and sometimes receiving a free t-shirt at the end."
FLTLT Derek's career has been a remarkable journey, from his Antonov days, migration to Australia, and finally settling into the Logistics Officer role.
His former career has given him a greater appreciation of the importance of effective management of people and the necessity of a robust supply chain.