With the Tokyo Olympic Games coming to a close, pride in Team Australia couldn’t be higher, but for one RAAF member it was twofold.
Flight Sergeant Tracey Freeman, a Network Technician deployed to the Combined Air Operations Centre in Qatar, cheered on the Aussie team, none more enthusiastically than the women’s softball team, Aussie Spirit.
For Flight Sergeant Freeman it was personal, as 17 years ago she lived their dream, on the field fighting for a win at the Athens Olympics.
She walked away with a silver medal, and a bronze four years later in Beijing. They were lifetime achievements and she’s thrown her support and mentoring behind the team since.
After Beijing, softball was removed from the Olympic program until Tokyo, and this year, after a 13-year hiatus, the Aussie Spirit proudly returned.
“I loved watching my mates perform on the big stage,” Flight Sergeant Freeman said.
“It has been a long time coming between Beijing and now, so to see them perform over there has been awesome.”
Flight Sergeant Freeman works with personnel from 17 other nations at the Combined Air Operations Centre at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
She maintains the Australian Information Communications Technology for the conduct of coalition operations and exercises.
“We run and maintain the Australian networks and ensure all members here have the appropriate access they require to perform their tasks,” she said.
The US-led COAC provides command and control of air power throughout Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and other nations in the US Air Forces Central Command region.
The team executes day-to-day combined air and space operations and provides rapid reaction, positive control, coordination and deconfliction of aircraft and weapons.
“Being on deployment puts a lot of things in perspective,” Flight Sergeant Freeman said.
“Especially working in such a complex environment with many different nations.
“When I was competing in softball, my Air Force experience and going on deployments such as these helped me to be more relaxed when playing softball, especially in those close games.”
Flight Sergeant Freeman said while the camaraderie between her coalition colleagues was high, she found everyone had a vested interest in softball.
“There was a lot of banter going on between countries, especially the Canadians and the Americans,” she said.
In Tokyo, Aussie Spirit came fifth to some very fierce competition by US, Canada, Japan and Mexico. Flight Sergeant Freeman said she couldn’t have been more proud.
“They’re a tight knit team with a lot of pride and respect for each other and they did their best representing Australia,” she said.
“More importantly, they gave us the inspiration to do the same.”