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Aaron Whittaker - Townsville

Royal Australian Air Forcce Flight Lieutenant Aaron Whittaker, 46, will be missing his three kids this Father's Day while planning operations for the C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster on Operation Accordion.

The Townsville Operations Officer is deployed with the Air Mobility Task Group (AMTG) at Australia's main operating base in the Middle East region (MER).

Aaron is responsible for coordination of RAAF cargo aircraft that get people and resources where they need to be, including Afghanistan, Iraq and other places in the MER.

"While wars are generally won with kinetic effects (weapons), all that equipment and people has to get there somehow," Flight Lieutenant Whittaker said.

"My role brings all the agencies together to execute the air mobility plan."

With about 1700 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel deployed across the MER, Flight Lieutenant Whittaker is a busy man.

AMTG has conducted more than 1000 hours of flying and has transported more than two million pounds of cargo and 4500 passengers over the past six months.

"Being kept busy is a good thing when you have a loving family and three kids back home," he said.

"A busy work schedule really keeps me focused on my work and access to the internet makes it easy to maintain contact with my family."

After nine years in the permanent service and a previous deployment to the MER in 2012, he is confident that his family is being well looked after.  

"My wife has an excellent support structure in place, including regular contact with my home unit, 38 Squadron in Townsville, so I don't have to worry too much when I'm away."

As well as keeping busy, the knowledge that he is contributing to something meaningful keeps Flight Lieutenant Whittaker motivated.

"I believe in what we are doing for regional and global security," he said.

"The ADF is Australia's national insurance policy, not just for the defence of Australia, but also for when natural disasters hit Australia and our regional neighbours."

Some of his fondest service memories include his involvement in Operation Pacific Assist in response to Cyclone Pam, which devastated Vanuatu in March 2015.

While Flight Lieutenant Whittaker won't be in Australia to spend time with his family on Father's Day, he knows exactly how he'll spend his time when he gets back. 

"I'll be cooking a nice ribeye steak on the barbecue while sipping a cold beverage on the back deck enjoying the afternoon sea breeze surrounded by family and friends.

Until then, Flight Lieutenant Whittaker will continue to enjoy his day-to-day immersion in aviation and the various challenges faced on operation.

"I love working with the crews and overcoming challenges - so far, we have managed to provide contingency responses that have achieved the vast majority of effects required.".