Leading Aircraftman Matthew Shomali has been crowned “Airman of the Rotation” during his first ADF deployment to the Middle East with the sixth iteration of the Expeditionary Airbase Operations Unit (EAOU).

Leading Aircraftman Shomali, who joined the Air Force in 2006, said he was honoured to receive the recognition.

“It was a big surprise. I was not expecting any award at all,” Leading Aircraftman Shomali said.

“Going in, I thought anything on top of a good deployment was a bonus, so I'm pretty happy.”

The security governance team performs biometric enrolment duties, which are not carried out in Australia.

“My role involved looking after all the other country nationals, or locally employed contractors. That’s all our cooks, cleaners and drivers who need to be biometrically enrolled,” Leading Aircraftman Shomali said.

“We do their security vetting, finger printing, compare checks with other databases and from those results we assess them for security clearances to come onto base.

“The language barrier has been the most interesting. When I first started I could not understand the managers I had to liaise with several times a day but we figured out a way to communicate with pen and paper.”

As part of his award, Leading Aircraftman Shomali received the EAOU flag that flew during his deployment. 

He said he would take the flag back home to Byron Bay.

“I reckon I’ll take it to the family home and leave it with my parents so when I go home on holidays it will be in the bedroom. I think Dad will be pretty happy with that,” Leading Aircraftman Shomali said.

“My Dad is from Palestine, he is Arabic. Growing up, Mum and Dad wanted us to visit family who still live there but they held off because it was an unstable environment.

“I’m glad I was able to finally spend time in the Middle East.”

EAOU provides operational support to Australia’s airbases in the Middle East region. The unit provides aviation logistics and ground support services for Operation Accordion, and expeditionary airbase operational support to Operations Okra, Highroad and Manitou.