Fresh out of training, newly-qualified loadmaster Australian Army Corporal (Cpl) Betty Latumahina is getting accustomed to steamy tropical rainstorms surrounding Nasouri Airport while deployed on Operation Fiji Assist.
Posted to Townsville-based A Squadron, 5th Aviation Regiment, Cpl Latumahina is part of the Australian Defence Force contingent helping people affected by Tropical Cyclone Winston, which smashed into Fiji on February 20th this year.
Despite very basic living conditions, long hours and extremely challenging weather, Cpl Latumahina is loving the experience of her first deployment.
Having completed the basic loadmaster course she was almost immediately deployed on the disaster relief operation, flying on missions in the Army's new MRH 90 Taipan helicopters to some of the worst-hit areas like Koro Island.
"People can tell you all about the job, but you learn best first hand," she said.
Cpl Latumahina joined the Australian Army in March 2009 during her gap year after attending a recruiting presentation at her school.
Being into physical activity and sports, Cpl Latumahina liked the thought of that kind of challenge.
"I'm a physical person and really take pride in being up to the physical demands required by the job and the potential for travel."
Cpl Latumahina was born in Papua New Guinea – one of seven children, and came to Australia to live with her Dad in 2006 when she was 16 years old.
Op Fiji Assist has given Cpl Latumahina the opportunity to consolidate her basic course, with a team she is happy working with.
"The crew all get on really well and enjoy doing the job," she said.
"The local people here are very friendly. It is wonderful seeing the gratitude in their eyes for the help being provided, it's a great experience."
Cpl Latumahina is looking forward to seeing her family in Brisbane when she returns to Australia.