For his 40 years of service with Defence, Warrant Officer David Pritchard was presented the Federation Star and Fifth Clasp to his Defence Long Service Medal on October 8 by Air Commander Australia Air Vice-Marshal Joe Iervasi.

Before embarking on a 40-year career with Air Force, Warrant Officer Pritchard's job was to drive one of the service’s most iconic figures.

As a teenager in the late 1970s, he worked at a Sydney textile warehouse owned by Group Captain Clive Caldwell, the famed World War II fighter pilot.

Group Captain Caldwell's record of 28.5 enemy aircraft shot down made him Australia's leading ace and he remained an enigma after the war.

"I could never work out how an ex-fighter ace ended up in the textile trade," Warrant Officer Pritchard said.

"Clive was a big man - over six feet tall - and never spoke of his wartime experiences. 

"I knew who Clive Caldwell was and of his wartime records, but unfortunately at the time I was too young to realise I was working for an Australian wartime icon that was living history now lost."

Driving the fighter ace to lunches in a red Jaguar XJ12 was one of Warrant Officer Pritchard's regular duties before he opted for a career change in December 1979.

"Caldwell wasn't aware I was applying for the military – none of the management was until I knew I was accepted – but he seemed quite chuffed when he did find out," Warrant Officer Pritchard said.

"I initially applied and was accepted for the Navy, but a friend of my parents – who was then a wing commander at Headquarters Air Command – asked me why didn't I join the Air Force.

"I went back to recruiting and the rest is history."

Joining as an Aircraft Technician, Warrant Officer Pritchard found he wasn't suited for the role and instead served initially as a clerk before finally becoming a loadmaster in 1986.

'I have enjoyed each aircraft type I have served on because of the different roles.'

He has since accumulated more than 10,000 flying hours on the C-130H, C-17A, B707 and Boeing Business Jet.

The career change to loadmaster was almost by complete chance.

"One day while sorting the daily message traffic, I came across an expression of interest for loadmaster," Warrant Officer Pritchard said.

"It required year 10 studies and a secret clearance and I thought, I have those, I might give this a go.

"At that stage I had never been on a service aircraft."

After a familiarisation flight in a Hercules, Warrant Officer Pritchard fronted the selection board and learned he was only just recommended for loadmaster training.

Since then, Warrant Officer Pritchard's career as a loadmaster has taken him from refuelling coalition jets over Afghanistan to carrying Prime Minister John Howard to the United States.

He has landed in the remote highland airfields of Papua New Guinea and touched down in Japan to deliver a remote water hose system for a stricken nuclear power plant.

"I got to take my son from Darwin to Indonesia in 2009 when he was still in the Army, so that they could set up the water purification unit following the Padang earthquake," Warrant Officer Pritchard said.

In November, 2012, Warrant Officer Pritchard clocked his 10,000th flying hour with Air Force when No. 36 Squadron welcomed the delivery of its sixth C-17A.

"My last flight with No. 36 Squadron was to Antarctica in November 2016 with then Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove," Warrant Officer Pritchard said.

"I find it difficult to make a choice over one aircraft type or squadron. I have enjoyed each aircraft type I have served on because of the different roles."

During desk jobs, Warrant Officer Pritchard has served in posts as officer-in-charge of crew attendants at No. 34 Squadron and in Australia House in London.

Multiple postings to Air Mobility Training and Development Unit at RAAF Base Richmond allowed him to make an enduring impact on future operations.

As a member of the unit's project team, he developed the load techniques and instructions to be used by current and future generations of loadmasters.

But perhaps the most enduring job of his RAAF career was his first, to No. 2 Stores Depot in Regents Park in 1980. There, he met his wife, Caroline.

"When we met we were both RAAFies, but she was forced out in order to follow me on my next posting to Hobart," Warrant Officer Pritchard said.

"I would certainly like to recognise my wife for her support over my career.

"When I remustered to loadmaster, she inherited a lot of time at home with two young children."

While raising their children, Caroline was able to complete nursing studies.

"The hardest thing for her was that she would make plans based on my being at home, only to discover things had changed and I would be away," Warrant Officer Pritchard said.

"It takes a very special person to be the partner of a Defence member and in particular a partner to aircrew coming and going without any pattern.

"As a side note, I don't go away anymore but my wife now does contract nursing up and down the east coast and goes way for weeks to months at time – it's her turn now."

Their legacy in Defence extends to their children, who both joined Defence before they were 21 years old.

"Our son joined the Army as a combat engineer and then plant operator, before leaving the Army after nine years, although he still does some reserve work," Warrant Officer Pritchard said.

"Our daughter joined the Air Force in 2008 as a crew attendant and is today at Air Mobility Control Centre at RAAF Base Richmond."