It was when she was in Australia with the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in 2019 that convinced Flight Lieutenant Darby Nelson to pick up her life and move across the world, to serve a new country in a new uniform.

Raised just outside Washington DC, Flight Lieutenant Nelson never imagined she’d find herself leading a team of Royal Australian Air Force cooks when she walked into the United States Naval Academy at 17.

With her sights set on joining the USMC, she embarked on four years of initial military training alongside studying a Bachelor of Science and Operations Research in the United States. At just 21, Flight Lieutenant Nelson became a ground supply officer marine, spending her formative early 20s on Okinawa island in Japan.

“After spending time in Darwin on Marine Rotational ForceDarwin, I didn't want to leave Australia. I love the culture and the people. Life is such an adventure, so I thought, why not transfer?” Flight Lieutenant Nelson said.

Just six months after her transfer to the Australian Defence Force and you couldn’t find a more Australian welcome for Flight Lieutenant Nelson than a ‘snag’ in a Bunnings car park. Except, this time Flight Lieutenant Nelson’s team served up the food from their car park campsite in Lismore, NSW, feeding the teams deployed on Operation Flood Assist 2022.

“Every day I have spent in the Australian Defence Force, I show up excited to be with my team.”

Not yet a year into her new life and she jumped straight into the role, already having deployed on Operation COVID-19 Assist and Operation Flood Assist 2022.

The Air Force field kitchen she ran was the first of its kind, feeding more people than ever. Set up in tents in the middle of a car park, her team made over 40,000 meals while the ADF was supporting the floods clean-up effort. 

“People always need help, no matter where they are in the world. I come from a privileged position to be able to help them," Flight Lieutenant Nelson said.

"I'm honoured to be here in Australia and was honoured to assist a new community in need.

“We are partners with the United States and I know my experience in the US Marines will always be valued.”

For now, she is setting her sights on a new goal, hoping one day to become a uniformed operations research systems analyst.