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Mark Keritz - Vermont South

It's amazing how childhood experiences can lead to significant adult career choices.

As an 11-year old Mark Keritz, from the Melbourne suburb of Vermont South, tagged along with his father and older brother James to visit the Avalon Airshow.

The huge event, with its impressive machines, sparked his desire to one day become a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) pilot.

Now Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Mark Keritz is a C-I30J Hercules transport aircraft captain.

Normally assigned to 37 Squadron at RAAF Base Richmond in New South Wales, he is currently flying missions from Australia's main command and logistics base in the Middle East Region.

Working as a member of the C-130J Detachment with the Air Mobility Task Group, FLTLT Keritz's main role is to support Operation Accordion and its other operations in the Middle East: Operation High Road in Afghanistan and Operation Okra in Iraq.

FLTLT Keritz said he started the Air Force application process when he was 16 years old, which gave him the extra motivation to study hard at Caulfield Grammar School (CGS) in subjects such as mathematics and physics to achieve his goal.

"I still made time to play Aussie Rules for the Vermont Eagles and CGS Wheelers Hill Campus," he said.

"Later, while I was studying for my Bachelor of Technology - Aviation at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, I played for the academy's team called the Rams.

FLTLT Keritz enlisted in 2006 and, like most young men, initially wanted to be a fighter pilot.

"However, as I approached the end of my pilot's course in 2009, I found a greater interest in air-lift and flying the Hercules," he said.

"I have been loving it ever since."

FLTLT Keritz said the best part of his career was the places he and his crew went and the jobs they did, which included flying combat, humanitarian, special operations and search and rescue missions.

"We go to amazing places," he said.

"When I first began flying with 37 Squadron it was in the C-130H model before it was retired.

"On my first trip we flew to Bali via Darwin and on the second trip we flew to Hawaii.

"It was the best possible introduction to the life of a Hercules pilot."

FLTLT Keritz has spent close to 12 months in the Middle East across four deployments and earlier this year was in Vanuatu for Operation Pacific Assist following the destruction brought by Tropical Cyclone Pam.

"When I take the time to look back at the favourite times during my work I think about when I flew over the Rocky Mountains in the United States," he said.

"It was a beautiful sight.

"Another highlight was the rare opportunity of flying across Africa in support of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan."

FLTLT Keritz said his wife Sophie was also from the same area in Melbourne.

"We even went to high school together," he said.

"Our families are very close and we try to catch up with them as much as possible.

"She has given me fantastic support during my career and toughs it out at home while I am away for up to eight months a year.

"It takes a lot of patience to put up with the Air Force lifestyle, but Sophie and I are very happy."