Inspecting United States attack helicopters in the middle of a dusty airfield in Afghanistan is the last place Navy pilot Natalie Davies thought she would ply her aviation trade.
Lieutenant Davies, 24, from Ascot in Queensland, is deployed to Operation SLIPPER at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan as the aviation planning officer at Regional Command-South.
The young officer is on her first operational tour to Afghanistan and had relished the rare chance to work as part of an international team in the United States-led headquarters.
"I work as an embed in the 4th Infantry Division Headquarters for Regional Command-South – probably not the kind of place I expected to be deployed as a Navy helicopter pilot," she said.
"I work as the Division Aviation Planner and on a day-to-day basis I look after and allocate rotary wing aircraft (helicopters) and a small contingent of fixed wing aircraft for both deliberate operations and sustainment moves around southern Afghanistan.
"I am one of two Australians in my section and we work with Belgians, Romanians, Georgians and the British Army as well and it’s very multi-cultural."
LEUT Davies currently flies the AS350 Squirrel helicopter from 723 Squadron based at HMAS Albatross in Nowra, New South Wales.
"When I go home I’ll be posted back to 723 Squadron and continue to fly the Squirrel II."
"This is my first operational deployment and I’ve loved every minute of it and wouldn’t change the experience.
"It has been a fascinating role, with one of the highlights being part of the team that evaluated and planned for the introduction of the latest variant of the AH-64E Apache into Afghanistan."
The Brisbane Girls Grammar School graduate and former Australian water polo representative studied a Bachelor of Science specialising in physics and oceanography at the Australian Defence Force Academy before embarking on a career as a helicopter pilot in the Navy.
She graduated from No. 2 Flying Training School (2FTS) in December 2011 before completing a rotary wing conversion in December 2012.
"I can’t wait to get home, have a surf at Moffat Beach on the Sunshine Coast and spend some time with family and friends.
"I miss my partner Aaron and parents (Hazel and Mark Davies) and it will be nice just to get home and relax before getting back to work."
About 400 Australian personnel will work in Afghanistan through 2014 to support the mission to train and advise the Afghan National Security Forces in both Kabul and Kandahar.
Approximately 800 personnel provide support from locations within the broader Middle East Area of Operations, including our maritime commitment.