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When workers step into each other’s boots

Aircraftwoman Baylee Smith experiences a day in the life of a RAAF firefighter at RAAF Base Amberley. Photo: Defence/Corporal Jessica de Rouw

RAAF Base Amberley is Australia’s largest Air Force base.

Dispersed from one end to the other is a squadron whose teams rarely cross paths.

There are chefs, mechanics, physical training instructors, firefighters, movements personnel, aviation refuellers and a variety of other air power enablers that make up No. 23 Squadron.

Warrant Officer Mike McDonnell recognised how challenging it was to maintain unit cohesion.

The solution is the ‘Day in the life of’ initiative.

The intent is to provide No. 23 Squadron members with opportunities to experience and observe the squadron’s operations through the lens of sections outside of their own.

“In our workforce, we have about 300 full-time members and over 100 reserve members who are geographically dispersed all over the base performing very different jobs,” Warrant Officer McDonnell said.

“While they wear the same patch on their uniform, more often than not, they don’t know each other unless they’re in the same section.

“Members tend to work within their own bubble. They know what they do and they know how they contribute to squadron’s mission, but they don’t necessarily appreciate how other teams contribute and, hence, how we all collectively contribute to the generation of air power.”

More than 70 members have since benefited from the experience since it started in May last year.

“It just took off. We didn’t have to mandate this at all because members have recognised the value in the initiative themselves,” Warrant Officer McDonnell said.

“They’ve been able to step out of the Airbase Command Post, or wherever they work, to go and watch fast jets take the cable or push pallets onto an aircraft, or go for a ride in a fire truck on the air strip.”

Going for a ride in a fire truck is exactly how Aircraftwoman Baylee Smith’s ‘Day in the life of’ experience started after she swapped her chef apron for a firefighting uniform to get a taste of life as a RAAF firefighter.

“It’s great to be out of the kitchen doing something different for the day and seeing what other No. 23 Squadron members do on the base,” Aircraftwoman Smith said.

“I’ve seen more of the base today than ever before because you don’t get out much when you’re working in the kitchen.”

Warrant Officer McDonnell said members were encouraged to complete two ‘Day in the life of’ experiences a year so that by the time they finish a three-year posting, each member will have spent six days immersed in the work life of another squadron member.

“They’ll leave with a greater appreciation of how the squadron contributes to the generation of air power,” Warrant Officer McDonnell said.

“For our squadron, this initiative has been a huge success and it’s something that could be replicated throughout other areas of Air Force.”

Read also:

>>> Remember that time an F-111 landed on it’s belly at Amberley?

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