Future unit command was far from the minds of two trainee technicians when they joined the Air Force in February 1989 as recruits.
Fast forward 31 years and Wing Commander Alan Brown and Squadron Leader Simon Longley unexpectedly met again and discovered they had both progressed to command roles in neighbouring units at RAAF Base Townsville.
Wing Commander Brown, from Malanda, in Far North Queensland, joined as an instrument fitter. After initial trade training at the RAAF School of Technical Training at RAAF Base Wagga Wagga, he was posted to RAAF Base East Sale.
Four years later, he had a change of direction becoming a physical training instructor prior to commissioning in 2003 as a logistics officer.
Squadron Leader Longley, from Ceduna, in far west South Australia, joined as an electronics technician and after trade training at RAAF Base Laverton (now RAAF Base Williams), was posted to RAAF Base Edinburgh. He re-mustered as an airborne electronics analyst in 1996, joining the crew of a No. 10 Squadron P-3C Orion, before commissioning as an airborne electronics officer in 2002.
The pair became friends during initial training at No. 1 Recruit Training Unit (1RTU) in an age before defence computer networks, social media and mobile phones. They lost contact with each other as time went by and their careers took them in different directions.
"I remember Simon back at 1RTU because we had similar sporting interests, had both joined from small regional towns from remote parts of the country and his twin brother was on the same course," Wing Commander Brown said.
Both men have deployed extensively throughout their careers but have never been in the same locality nor posted to the same base until recently when Squadron Leader Longley was posted to Townsville as the Commanding Officer of the Combat Survival Training School.
Wing Commander Brown was already in Townsville as Commanding Officer of No. 383 Squadron but it wasn’t until a chance meeting to discuss Indigenous engagement initiatives that they realised they’d been on the same recruit course.
"Thirty-one years is a long time ago and we don’t look quite the same as we used to, but we quickly worked out how we knew each other after realising our joining dates were one day apart," Squadron Leader Longley said.
Experience gained during their time within Air Force and Headquarters Joint Operations Command has prepared both for their current positions at Townsville.
Wing Commander Brown’s role as No. 383 Squadron Commanding Officer involves leading a high-readiness team that provides expeditionary air base operational support across the entire spectrum of operating environments.
Squadron Leader Longley’s role as Commanding Officer of the Combat Survival Training School for the ADF involves leading instructors and support staff to provide Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape (SERE) training to aircrew.
Both have plans to stay in Air Force for a good number of years.
"Our dynamic careers and progression to command is a good example of the opportunities available to junior personnel now joining Air Force," Squadron Leader Longley said.
"The advice I would offer to the latest generation of recruits is to never turn down any opportunities that come your way as you never know where a role you perform may take you in the future."