While the coronavirus pandemic has essentially put a stop to international travel, Leading Aircraftwoman Lisa Stephens’ Air Force career has taken her to more than 10 countries in the past three-and-a-half years.
It’s a range of travel experiences the 22-year-old from Kingaroy in Queensland never imagined when she walked through the doors of Defence Force Recruiting in 2016.
“A career in the Australian Defence Force always interested me when I was younger, but it has truly exceeded my wildest expectations,” Lisa said.
Currently deployed to the Middle East for the first time with the air load team supporting Operation Accordion, Leading Aircraftwoman Stephens’ role as an air mover has previously taken her to the Philippines, Guam, New Zealand, Finland, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Brunei.
While primarily tasked to prepare cargo for distribution and loading as part of No. 13 Squadron Air Movements section at RAAF Base Darwin, Northern Territory, the job also involves the former swimming instructor and lifeguard flying forward to help with delivery.
Leading Aircraftwoman Stephens said her most uplifting moments were when she was involved in national responses to natural disasters.
“Seeing the happy look on people’s faces when humanitarian aid is delivered to disaster- affected communities definitely makes me proud,” she said.
“As an air mover, you see how military capability positively impacts the health and wellbeing of people trying to recover from a devastating event.”
Always eager to learn new skills, Leading Aircraftwoman Stephens said her current deployment to the Middle East offered a range of opportunities.
“I’ve been lucky enough to gain an abundance of trade experience in a very short period of time in Darwin, and now I’m continuing that growth and development, enhancing my skills during this deployment,” she said.
“I feel that the role of my team here is important as so many forward operating bases rely on efficient and effective delivery of mission-critical supplies.
“I find it highly rewarding being a member of the air load team preparing equipment and supplies for flight and delivery.”
Leading Aircraftwoman Stephens said, as her deployment comes to a close, she was excited to be going home.
“I’m really missing all my friends and family so I can’t wait to get home and see them,” she said.
“I’m extremely grateful to have such a dynamic and rewarding career, especially during such an unstable worldwide pandemic.
“Seeing some of the challenges the rest of the world faces makes me appreciate having opportunities to meet new people and see new places.”