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Women take charge


Australian Army Officer and Deputy Commander Joint Task Force 633, Brigadier Kathryn Campbell (left), chats with Commander Task Group Afghanistan Australian Army Officer, Brigadier Cheryl Pearce, after arriving at Kandahar air base in Afghanistan
Australian Army Officer and Deputy Commander Joint Task Force 633, Brigadier Kathryn Campbell (left), chats with Commander Task Group Afghanistan Australian Army Officer, Brigadier Cheryl Pearce, after arriving at Kandahar air base in Afghanistan

The achievements of women in the Australian Defence Force have reached a new milestone, with two of the most senior deployed operational command positions now held by women.

Brigadier Kathryn Campbell became the first woman to be appointed to the role of Deputy Commander Joint Task Force 633 at Camp Baird in the Middle East region in May 2016.

Brigadier Campbell has two busy careers: as an Army Reserve officer, she is the Commander of 5th Brigade; and as a full-time public servant, she is the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Human Services, which runs Centrelink and Medicare. This is her first overseas deployment.

‘I was delighted to find out I was chosen for the position and fortunate the Government supported me to deploy away from my civilian job’, Brigadier Campbell said.

‘It’s a great opportunity for me, like every soldier, sailor and airman and woman who joins the ADF—I wanted to do my job deployed on operations. I’m contributing to the important ADF team here in the Middle East and I’m keen to be a positive influence and be accessible to the people I meet.’

Brigadier Campbell’s civilian and military jobs are similar in more ways than one.

‘I’m incredibly lucky to have both jobs as they give me the opportunity to serve Australians’, she said.

‘Like the Army, the Department of Human Services is an operational department that relies heavily on information technology. It has 35,000 people working in more than 400 locations all over Australia.

‘My role here in the Middle East has an operational focus, where I make decisions using very similar processes.’

She joins Brigadier Cheryl Pearce AM, who is Commander Task Group Afghanistan, a role she took up in February 2016.

Brigadier Pearce, a fellow of the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies, former Chief of Staff at Army Headquarters and Head of Corps of the Royal Australian Corps of Military Police, leads a command element of about 45 Australian Defence Force personnel, which coordinates administration, communications and logistics support for all ADF members deployed to Afghanistan.

Task Group Afghanistan’s Headquarters is at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. Australia is one of the largest non-NATO contributors in Afghanistan. Around 270 ADF personnel are deployed to Task Group Afghanistan as part of Operation Highroad, fulfilling a variety of roles supporting the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

Brigadier Pearce said Australia is committed to achieving long-term security for Afghanistan. Australia no longer has a combat role in Afghanistan, with the focus now on training and advising Afghan forces.

‘We’re committed until 2017 and the Government will make a decision this year on what our footprint is militarily post 2016’, Brigadier Pearce said.

‘Australia, together with the international community, is committed to the long-term security of Afghanistan.’

‘Improving security is our number one priority to ensure that the Afghan people and the government of Afghanistan can have a future that’s free of terrorism and insurgents, and can live in a safe and secure environment’, Brigadier Pearce said.