While Captain Peter Prendergast didn’t win a flag playing for the Campbell’s Creek AFL club, but now he’s helping the Afghan Air Force kick goals with their helicopter maintenance during a deployment to the war-torn country.
Peter, an Army captain and aeronautical engineer, is advising the Afghans on how best to keep their choppers flying.
Some of this is made easier since Afghan maintainers are trained in understanding mechanical terms in English.
“The majority are young guys who are fit, keen and able, they’re willing to learn, similar to the guys back home,” Peter said.
“They want to get out on the tools, they want to get the aircraft flying so they can take control of their own country.”
After graduating Castlemaine High, Peter joined the Army Reserve as an infantryman in 2003.
He signed up for full-time service as an Army pilot in 2005, but didn’t enjoy flying and was offered the chance to study and became an aeronautical engineer.
Peter became more interested in how aircraft fly, than actually flying them himself.
“My interests are more technical and hands on, working with the maintainers and helping them do their jobs. That technical side keeps me interested,” he said.
In Afghanistan he works with a multi-national NATO team that advises and mentors the Afghan Air Force, helping them become an independent and sustainable force.
Day-to-day, Peter discusses aircraft serviceability with Afghans, helps with and looks at how to improve their procedures.
“We’re hoping to do ourselves out of a job; that’s the end goal for the mission,” Peter said.
“We want to hand over the equipment, the maintenance, the control of the aircraft so they can run things themselves.”
Peter’s mum Hilary, and dad Les - a Vietnam veteran - still live in Campbell’s Creek
“They were supportive and they know when you join the Army, deploying is part of what you need to do, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.
Peter is due to return home to Melbourne in May, where he’s currently posted and should be visiting his parents soon after.
“I love that Castlemaine and Campbell’s Creek are still the towns they were when I was growing up,” he said.
“It’s the simple things that make the town great, the easy-going nature and the simple lifestyle.”
Peter is deployed to Afghanistan as part of the Australian Defence Force’s Operation Highroad.
Operation Highroad is the Australian Defence Force’s commitment to Afghanistan supporting the NATO-led train, advise and assist mission called Resolute Support which has replaced the previous NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission.
Around 300 ADF members from the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Army, the Royal Australian Air Force and Defence civilians are deployed in Afghanistan as part of Operation Highroad.