This year, Father's Day will be an emotional time for Air Force air battle manager Flight Lieutenant Michael Earle.  

Currently deployed as part of the Air Task Group for Operation Accordion based in the Middle East region (MER), 2020 represents the first year he will spend Father's Day away from his three children, Elizabeth, 5, Aurélia, 3, Thomas, 1, and his wife, Catherine

"Preparing for my departure was incredibly difficult this time round. In the lead-up there was lots of hugs and tears – mostly from me, but a month or so in, we are established in our new routines," Flight Lieutenant Earle said.

"The children are focused on school, daycare and extracurricular activities. 

"Of course, on operations my days are fully committed and I am focused on the job at hand but no doubt my wife has the toughest job with keeping everything on track at home with three young kids.

"Truthfully, her service at home allows me to serve abroad. It's a team effort."

As a consequence of military life, Flight Lieutenant Earle is no stranger to missing important family milestones.

"My father has served over 45 years in the Navy, so I have first-hand experience from both perspectives," he said.

"The difference is when I was a child, letters and the very occasional phone call was all that was available.

"With webcam technology, we are so very lucky to have the opportunity to stay connected in this way which certainly helps."

In addition to home-based connectivity, a school-based Defence technology program entitled 'Making Connections Matter' is also helping Defence children and their families cope with the challenges of military life; including separation from parents during special family milestones such as Father's Day.

Flight Lieutenant Earle's daughter Elizabeth, who attends Medowie Public School in NSW, is part of the program which includes whole-of-class video-link sessions with deployed parents.

"We are grateful to our Defence mentor, Mrs Katie Thornton who has assisted in establishing this program at our school," Flight Lieutenant Earle said.

"It has made Elizabeth feel very special and has encouraged understanding and support from her peers. 

"The sessions also promote wider discussions on differing topics at a primary school level – for example, different jobs, cultures and the importance of friends and family."

While modern technology will keep the family connected, Flight Lieutenant Earle reflected on what that would look like during those special moments normally spent with his children.

"Father’s Day this year will certainly be different and even though I will not be physically with my children, it is a reminder of the importance of family. 

"Additionally it reaffirms for me a personal achievement of deploying, doing my part in operations to ensure that individuals and families are safe. 

"With this in mind, I couldn’t be more proud that our family is serving this Father's Day."