Planning a marriage has its challenges, but in a pandemic it’s even more difficult, particularly when the groom is on deployment helping stop the spread of coronavirus.

Leading Aircraftman Ryan Mills is normally based at RAAF Williamtown near Newcastle as a ground technician, but he’s been deployed on Operation COVID-19 Assist since October as a driver.

“I drive the teams working on the quarantine compliance monitoring program to and from their shifts at Sydney Airport and the various quarantine hotels,” he said.

“I also transport government and defence force personnel who are returning to Australia to their hotels for their 14-day mandatory quarantine period.”

He and his now wife, former Air Force member Ellen Mills, tried to get married three times last year.

“COVID restrictions made it too difficult each time,” Mrs Mills said.

But while on deployment, Leading Aicraftman Mills’ command managed to roster his days off to enable the couple to finally tie the knot.

Air Force Chaplain Group Captain Garry Hooper conducted the ceremony on January 2 in Mrs Mills' hometown of Bathurst in central west New South Wales.

“We still had to take special COVID precautions and some of my family weren’t able to attend because of border closures, but it was the most beautiful day,” Mrs Mills said.

I’m so glad that I was able to combine the operation with getting married to the most beautiful person in the world.

Meanwhile, Leading Aircraftman Mills is conscious his deployment puts him on the COVID frontline, but he’s not concerned.

“The best defence is obviously social distancing, sanitising, masks, proper PPE – if you follow all the procedures, then there’s very little chance that you’ll get the virus,” he said.

“I love what I’m doing on COVID-19 Assist – doing my small part in helping in the fight against COVID.  

“I’m so glad that I was able to combine the operation with getting married to the most beautiful person in the world.”

Officer Commanding JTU629.1.1 B Company Commander Heidi Rossendell said the most consistent part of Operation COVID-19 Assist was the quality of the people assigned to the force, and the dedication and professionalism of Leading Aircraftman Mills was no exception.

“I met Ryan just before he and his now wife, Ellen, got married – he has been absolutely focused on his job,” Commander Rossendell said.

“But his story is a reminder that, while service is important, life outside work must goes on, too.”