A mother and daughter were brought together for the first time in a professional setting when they attended a recent Operational Health Support Course at RAAF Base Amberley.

Flight Lieutenant Grace Charlwood and her mother Squadron Leader Cheryl Charlwood are both Air Force medical officers.

Flight Lieutenant Charlwood is posted to Amberley Health Centre, Joint Health Unit - South Queensland and Squadron Leader Charlwood is a specialist forensic pathologist reservist at No.2 Expeditionary Health Squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown.

“Having mum on the course was an excellent opportunity to share knowledge and experience and to see each other in a different capacity,” Flight Lieutenant Charlwood said.

“Being in the same field in the Air Force provides us with an understanding of what we do day-to-day in our respective areas.

“Hopefully in the future, we will have the opportunity for postings or exercises together.” 

Squadron Leader Charlwood said it was fantastic to have Grace already in the Air Force when she joined.

“It was always great to share the same medical language, but we can now also speak 'ADF', although I am still lagging on all the abbreviations,” Squadron Leader Charlwood said.

“We enjoyed being on course together, even when I would try and pull rank or do motherly, embarrassing things.”

It was always great to share the same medical language, but we can now also speak 'ADF'.

Flight Lieutenant Charlwood was introduced to Air Force as a teenager through the Australian Air Force Cadets.

She joined the Air Force undergraduate sponsorship program at the start of her third year of medical school in 2015.

After completing her studies in 2018, she worked in civilian hospitals, and completed Air Force officer training and medical officer courses.

This year is her first year in uniform full-time.

Squadron Leader Charlwood trained in pathology and worked as a Home Office pathologist in the United Kingdom.

She is now a consultant specialist forensic pathologist with Forensic Science South Australia in her civilian life.

“I perform autopsies as part of coronial investigations and cover all manner of deaths – natural, accidental, suspicious deaths and homicides,” she said.

“I then provide evidence to the coroner’s and supreme courts as required.”

In 2016, Squadron Leader Charlwood worked alongside ADF members attending the scene of a civilian aircraft crash.

This provided the opportunity to talk with her military counterparts about career opportunities in the Air Force.

“I am also the state and Royal College of Pathologists disaster victim identification pathology representative, and it is really due to that facet of my role, accompanied by conversations with ADF medical officers in the field, that spurred me on to join the Air Force in 2018,” she said.

With her specialist skills, Squadron Leader Charlwood’s role in the Reserves would include attending a mass disaster as part of humanitarian aid, or incidents like aircraft accidents with multiple fatalities.

The one-week Operational Health Support Course is mandatory for medical personnel and teaches participants all aspects of deployable health support and prepares them for deployment. 

It is conducted by the Health Operational Conversion Unit at RAAF Base Amberley.