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Darren Pay - Mildura

Darren Pay admits memories of summer in the Mildura Swimming Pool come flooding back as the mercury nudges 46C while he is deployed to Al Minhad Air Base for Operation ACCORDION.

Sergeant Pay, a Physical Training Instructor (PTI) with Joint Task Force 633 at Camp Baird in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is nearing the end of a six-month deployment at the Australian Middle East base with Combat Support Unit-11.

The married father of two is the sole PTI at the Australian base and is revelling in the role to maintain the health, fitness and morale of about 350 personnel.

"I am deployed over here for the hottest part of the year and with the constant high temperatures, I think of the summers spent at the Mildura swimming pool where I was able to cool off and get a decent Aussie tan," he said.

"My job at Camp Baird mainly involves conducting physical training (PT) classes, personal programs, sporting activities, maintaining sporting fields and courts, maintenance and management of both Australian gymnasiums.

"The job is challenging with 12 – 14 hour days but everybody works hard on deployment and it is rewarding to be able contribute to the team effort.

"My biggest challenge is keeping PT fresh and non-repetitive within the small confines of the gym due to the heat at this time of the year.

"The other personal challenge is getting used to not having cold water come out of the tap after a hard, sweaty day at work!"

He is also actively involved supporting his mates and is the President of the Al Minhad Air Base Australian Welfare Committee, an essential welfare service that provides activities and functions that help maintain a positive morale for Australian personnel.

He said he has had many highlights from his first operational deployment including making close friends and visiting Europe for the first time during his mid-deployment break.

Operation ACCORDION is the operational mission based out of Al Minhad Air Base, UAE to provide logistical, personnel and administrative support about 1000 Australian personnel deployed across the Middle East Region including Afghanistan and the maritime security environment.