The ‘Air Force Family’ takes on a whole new meaning for Air Force Reservist Air Commodore Margot Forster and her sister, Flight Lieutenant Melody Earl.
Born in Adelaide, both inspirational female leaders have played a pivotal role in the fight against COVID-19.
This International Women’s Day they are taking some time to reflect on women in leadership in a COVID-19 world.
Air Commodore Forster always wanted to serve her country and joining the ADF enabled her to have an exciting and rewarding career.
She was a supply officer in the Royal Australian Navy for the first six years of her ADF career before transferring to the Air Force.
“My career in Air Force has been rewarding, exciting and offered many opportunities including being able to serve at the same time as raising three children," Air Commodore Forster said.
“In 2020, I received a call from the South Australian Premier’s office asking if I would take the role of State Lead for the state’s bushfire recovery.
“As part of this role, I established great relationships in the emergency management space.”
Air Force reached out to Air Commodore Forster to take on Command of Joint Task Group 629.4, with the opportunity to coordinate the Defence response to the COVID-19 pandemic within South Australia.
“I was able to step out of my suit and into my uniform and establish critical connections with government to support South Australia’s response, literally overnight,” Air Commodore Forster said.
“I had a great team and we very quickly were able to establish how best to support SA Health and the wider response following the declaration of a Public Health Emergency in South Australia.
“I am fortunate to have a very supportive partner who gladly stepped up to take over full responsibility for managing the home and family while he continued to work as a commercial pilot.
“It did help that our schedules began to flip as the busier I got, the less he was flying.
“I have now stepped aside from command and have taken a on the role of Executive Director of Health Regulation and Protection Operations, running the COVID-19 contact tracing capability at SA Health.”
It was the love of adventure and fascinating stories at a Christmas lunch that inspired No. 464 Squadron Public Affairs Officer Flight Lieutenant Earl to follow in her sister’s footsteps.
“Five uniformed family members (sister, husband, cousin and two brothers in-law) inspired me to join, Christmas lunch often felt like a Tom Clancy novel,” Flight Lieutenant Earl said.
“They were all fit, disciplined and organised, living their best lives.
“My continued inspiration comes from wanting to set a good example for my daughters, Jade 26 and Tayler 18.
“They truly inspire me to be my best self, both girls back themselves when tackling new challenges and celebrate other people’s success without viewing it through a competitive lens.
“They are self-motivated and achieve greatness with endless kindness and compassion. They believe in and model the behaviour of an inclusive and supportive sisterhood.”
With more than 36 years of service in the ADF, Air Commodore Forster believes that International Women’s Day is about celebrating courage.
“It is so important to be kind to yourself, but more importantly be kind to others,” she said.
“I believe that we should measure our success by the number of people we support to be successful.
“My role model is Air Commodore Bob Rodgers, former Director General Personnel - Air Force. He encouraged me and others to believe that diversity of thought was critical to take an organisation from good to great, and women were an important part of achieving that diversity in our Air Force team.”
For Flight Lieutenant Earl, International Women’s Day is about appreciating the talented women she is surrounded by.
“I hope to encourage as many women as possible to fearlessly embrace what tomorrow offers, because they are worth it,” she said.
“We must also remember to pause a moment to breathe and celebrate the past achievements of female trailblazers.
“Be kind to yourself and to others, compassion goes a long way. Never stand on the shoulders of another person.”
The ADF is providing COVID-19 support to federal, state and territory authorities, which to date has included a range of logistical, medical and personnel support. Between March and September more than 11,000 ADF personnel have been involved in Operation COVID-19 Assist on more than 70 Defence Assistance to the Civil Community tasks.