Paul Etches is the sole Defence civilian deployed to Australia's main air operating base in the Middle East Region (MER). A long way from his home in Brassall, Queensland, his 15 years experience in the Australian Public Service has proved to be a valuable asset to the Air Task Group (ATG).
Paul provides financial advice directly to ATG commanders, ensuring all funds used in support of operations are spent in accordance with Defence financial policies.
Paul said he is constantly reviewing countless Defence financial and procurement policies, scrutinizing every ATG transaction, and although his role is quite complex, he's enjoying the challenge.
"I'm finding the challenge of juggling the numbers in such a fast paced and highly demanding environment to be really rewarding," said Paul.
"I often see the positive effects when equipment is purchased and put straight into use."
"I'm cognisant of how each request contributes to our mission, and it's my job to ensure all funds made available by Headquarters Joint Operations Command are accounted for appropriately."
"The Air Task Group plays an important role within the international coalition working to disrupt and degrade Daesh operations in the MER and I'm proud to be involved."
This is Paul's first deployment to the Middle East region and his position back home as the No. 95 Wing Finance Manager within Combat Support Group has prepared him well for this deployment. With seven years of prior experience as an Air Force supplier, Paul is well equipped to play an important role within the organisation.
"Being away from family and friends is hard for everyone, but I'm proud to be a part of the team that has been making significant progress in degrading the capability of Daesh," said Paul.
"Combine that experience with the chance to meet some amazing people and forming some enduring friendships, and it's created a great deployment for me."
Paul also works as the first level supervisor for the cashier on the base and has filled in for the cashier when the role was vacant.
"With up to 350 Defence personnel working in the area, the cashier role can be a demanding one," said Paul.
"Defence personnel are often in need of small amounts of local currency for personal use, so it's up to us to ensure they can access the cash office without too much hassle."
Paul said he applied for the deployment when he saw the Expression of Interest (EOI) released back in March of 2015.
"After submitting my expression of interest, I had a phone interview with Headquarters Joint Operations Command where my Defence finance knowledge was put to the test before I received the green light to deploy," said Paul.
"It's been a long process since I first saw the EOI almost a full year ago, but as I approach the end of my six and a half month deployment, I'm excited to be taking the knowledge learnt and experience of deployment home with me."
The Australian Air Task Group (ATG) of Operation OKRA is operating at the request of the Iraqi Government within a US-led international coalition assembled to disrupt and degrade Daesh operations in the Middle East Region (MER). The ATG comprises six RAAF F/A-18A Hornet fighter aircraft, an E-7A Wedgetail airborne command and control aircraft, and a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport air-to-air refuelling aircraft. Additionally, the ATG has personnel working in the Combined Air and Space Operations Centre, and embedded with the ‘KingPin’ US tactical Command and Control Unit.
The ATG is directly supported by the Combat Support Unit of Operation ACCORDIAN, whose mission is to provide continuous combat support to sustain air operations in the MER. There are up to 350 personnel deployed, at any one time, as part of, or in direct support of the ATG.