At only 26, Yallourn North’s own Aaron Lawes’s hands are critical in helping the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) operate in the Middle East.
As a RAAF aircraft technician, Leading Aircraftman Aaron Lawes is a member of the team that maintains the RAAF C-130J Hercules aircraft that are deployed to the Australian air facility located within Al Minhad airbase in the United Arab Emirates.
The aircraft support Australian troops still working in Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates and more recently have been providing humanitarian aid to Iraq.
"I look after the mechanics of the aircraft and my tasks include flight line servicing and inspections plus the removal and installation of aircraft components such as the hydraulics, landing gear, engines and propellers," Leading Aircraftman Lawes said.
"I am also qualified to operate and functionally test the aircraft engines and their systems."
Aaron graduated Lowanna College in 2006 and played AFL for Yallourn North Football Club in his late teens before joining the RAAF in 2008.
"I have always enjoyed hands on-work, either helping my Dad in the shed or my Aunty and Uncle on their farm in the Wimmera," he said.
This is Aaron’s second deployment to the Middle East, having completed his first tour in 2012.
"I have been in the Air Force for six years and always knew that it would give me the opportunity to travel," he said.
Aaron works in a small team who are deployed to support the maintenance and operations of the C-130 Hercules aircraft.
"We have to carry out maintenance, special services and flight line duties on the aircraft every day to keep them flying on schedule," he said.
"Over here, we usually work long nights, not only to avoid some of the heat but to make sure the aircraft are ready for the next day."
Aaron and his team are critical to the success of air operations, ensuring that Australian Defence Force personnel and equipment can move around the Middle East Region.
Aaron’s current tour as part of Operation ACCORDION will conclude later this year and he is looking forward to heading home to see his girlfriend, Melissa.
He will also take the time to head down to Moe and Yallourn North in the Latrobe Valley to visit his family.
"My family still live back home in the valley," he said.
"I don’t get to visit my family very often so it will be good to see my mum, dad, sister and nephew."
"I have a lot of travel plans when I get back to Australia which I am looking forward to."
Operation ACCORDION is the ADF contribution support personnel deployed across the Middle East Region including Afghanistan for Operation SLIPPER and Operation MANITOU in the maritime environment.