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Alesha Cantelo – Caloundra

Despite all the sand, growing up on the sunny beaches of Caloundra did not fully prepare Alesha Cantelo for the desert extremes in the Middle East.

Currently deployed to the Air Task Group in support of Operation OKRA, Squadron Leader Alesha Cantelo is providing Aviation Safety support to the air assets deployed in the Middle East during the height of summer where temperatures often exceed 45 degrees.

"My role here is to ensure the aircrew are supported from pre-mission brief through to debrief," she said.

"I lead a team of six officers and airwomen and together we provide a range of products and services for the aircrew.

"This can include anything from pre-mission products, assistance with in-flight emergencies, assistance for alternate airfield diverts, aircraft parking and daily reporting for the chain of command.

"No two days are ever the same here.

"If I had to sum up my job in one sentence it would be: We have problems, I fix the problems, we go flying!"

The Air Task Group is part of a US-led coalition of over 30 countries who are working together to assist the Iraqi Security Forces to rid Iraq of Daesh influence.

"My role also includes liaising with coalition partners for anything relating to the flightline or safety," she said.

"That has definitely been one of the highlights of my deployment.

"I've met and become good friends with a lot of coalition partners, which is definitely one of the best parts about joining the Air Force."

This deployment is the third for Alesha who has also deployed to Afghanistan twice as an Air Battle Manager responsible for controlling hundreds of aircraft.

"Controlling the skies over Afghanistan during Operation SLIPPER with hundreds of aircraft flying through the country was a stand-out moment of my career," she said.

"I've had some incredible experiences during my time in Air Force.

"From a flight in a Hornet during a refuelling mission, a cocktail party on the deck of a US Navy Aircraft Carrier in Hawaii, to a U2 Chase Car ride, I have had adventures I never thought possible."

Back in Australia, Alesha is posted to RAAF Base Williamtown as an Air Combat Officer (Air Battle Manager), a role that is responsible for the surveillance and control of military aircraft.

"Instructing young people who have just joined Defence to become Navigators and Aircraft Controllers has definitely been the most rewarding part of my career," she said.

Alesha is looking forward to returning to Newcastle after her deployment and snuggling up on the couch with her husband Jarrad and three-year old daughter to watch Frozen, her daughter's favourite movie.

"Being away from Jarrad and Arabella has been the hardest part of this deployment and I'm really looking forward to taking some leave when I get home and having some family time together," she said.

The Air Task Group (ATG) of Operation OKRA, is operating at the request of the Iraqi Government within a US-led international coalition assembled to disrupt and degrade Daesh operations in the Middle East Region (MER).

The ATG comprises seven RAAF F/A-18A Hornet fighter aircraft, an E-7A Wedgetail airborne command and control aircraft, and a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport air-to-air refuelling aircraft.