It’s hard to get your head around the numbers.
As the new Commander Combat Support Group, Air Commodore Veronica Tyler, is in direct command of about 5000 ADF personnel and reserves throughout Australia.
As the Senior ADF Officer for Amberley, she is also responsible for overseeing the daily workforce on the base.
Super base RAAF Base Amberley has 8000 personnel – including over 2000 contractors – drive through the gates each day.
The numbers on the base alone includes more people than the entire township of Tamborine Mountain, in fact, there are only thirty towns and cities in Queensland larger than it.
Despite the obvious magnitude of the number, it’s clear from talking to Air Commodore Tyler that she is up to the task yet remains very down to earth.
Long before Air Commodore Tyler was the most senior defence member at Amberley, she was a young girl from the farming town, Dalby, two hours west of Ipswich.
The seed was planted by a school teacher of hers.
“I was very lucky that one of my teachers was an Air Force Reservist. We got to talking and I was quite interested in what she had to say,” Air Commodore Tyler said.
“She organised to get me out to Amberley to have a look and that just set me on a path towards serving my country. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to do that.
“The planets aligned when she and I met and had that conversation.”
The story doesn’t end there.
The teacher who inspired Air Commodore Tyler later joined the Air Force full time.
“It was lovely to run into her over the years and in the last few years we ended up working reasonably closely together,” Air Commodore Tyler said.
“At the end of last year my old school teacher, Air Commodore Kathryn Dunn retired.”
This is the fourth time the commander has slid her boots under the desk at RAAF Base Amberley and Commander Combat Support Group is her third command role.
“For years now I have worked towards this job. This is the job I have always wanted,” Air Commodore Tyler said.
“To be selected for command of such an outstanding force element group is absolutely amazing.”
As Commander Combat Support Group, Air Commodore Tyler is responsible for overseeing the Airbase operational support capabilities of each of Australia’s Air Force bases and for preparing combat support forces for expeditionary roles. Day to day this includes operational requirements for active airfields and ensuring all the governance and procedures are in place for safety, fuel, emergency response, training and equipment.
The preparation of Combat Support Forces to perform roles on operations anywhere in the world ranging from active combat to humanitarian assistance requires additional training.
“Combat Support is very complex and made up of over 50 trades. Preparing our forces requires many levels of training and a lot of discussions.” Air Commodore Tyler said.
“We have thousands of years of experience within this group.
“The knowledge in the group is essential to assist in improving training outcomes and to inform the papers and business cases for personnel and equipment requirements that will allow Combat Support Group to provide the best capability to support our fifth generation technology into the future.
“Part of my job is getting out into the units and I like to ask the question – if you could fix one thing today, to make your job better, what would it be?
“You get some very interesting responses to that because people are looking at the problem from different levels.
“Sometime you can get that nugget of information and think ‘wow’ that is a really good consideration to take to the next broader discussion about that capability.”
The ‘other hat’ Air Commodore wears is the Senior ADF Officer Amberley, which requires her to oversee 87 units that contribute to the Australian Defence Capability. It’s important to ensure they are working together and communicating with each other and to create an environment where strong relationships can be made.
(l-r) Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Commander Combat Support Group, Air Commodore Veronica Tyler, speaks with RAAF No. 1 Security Forces Task Unit Commander Squadron Leader William Drewitt-Smith, about the security training being conducted at the Commando Warrior Training Facility, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Images courtesy: Defence
Air Commodore’s inclusive leadership style has been forged over an almost 30 year career in a variety of roles.
“There are many stand outs in my career and one of those would be the 2003 deployment to the Middle East,” Air Commodore Tyler said.
“I had planned a number of deployments before, including East Timor, but being an executive officer in the Middle East and seeing how defence pulls together its capability in a deployed environment was absolutely ground-breaking for me.
The deployment was part of Operation Falconer which involved 2000 Australian troops in the world-wide response to the terrorist attacks in America on September 11, 2001. At the time it was believed there were weapons of mass destruction and Australian military personnel were going into a country where it had not operated in for a significant time.
“This is what we train for and it was amazing to actually get out there and do it,” Air Commodore Tyler said.
“Deployments are a completely different environment. You learn a lot about yourself and also about how my people coped in that scenario.
“People react differently and work differently. That was really eye opening for me and it changed my leadership focus but I gained a greater understanding of the individual impacts depending on the activity.”
Air Commodore Tyler describes her new role, running the largest Force Element Group as well as overseeing the largest Air Force base in the country, as a testing one but also a highly fulfilling one.
“It gives you such a brilliant feeling when you see people achieving great things and know that, that is your team,” Air Commodore Tyler said.
“What I see people achieve on a daily basis is just amazing to watch.”