A Leading Aircraftman has received a service award during his first-ever deployment with the ADF to the Middle East, based with the sixth iteration of the Expeditionary Airbase Operations Unit (EAOU).
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Matthew Shomali, who joined the Air Force in 2006, said he was honoured to have been crowned “Airman of the Rotation” on his deployment with EAOU. The unit provides operational support, aviation logistics and ground support services for Operation Accordion, and expeditionary airbase operational support to Operations Okra, Highroad and Manitou.
“It was a big surprise. I was not expecting any award at all,” said LAC Shomali. “Going in, I thought anything on top of a good deployment was a bonus, so I'm pretty happy.”
LAC Shomali served with EAOU's security governance team, which performs biometric enrolment duties.
“My role involved looking after all the other country nationals, or locally employed contractors. That’s all our cooks, cleaners and drivers who need to be biometrically enrolled,” he said.
“We do their security vetting, finger printing, compare checks with other databases and from those results we assess them for security clearances to come onto base.
“The language barrier has been the most interesting. When I first started I could not understand the managers I had to liaise with several times a day but we figured out a way to communicate with pen and paper.”
As part of his award, the young man received the EAOU flag that flew during his deployment. LAC Shomali said that he planned on taking the flag back home to Byron Bay, where he would use it to decorate the family home.
“I reckon I’ll take it to the family home and leave it with my parents so when I go home on holidays it will be in the bedroom. I think Dad will be pretty happy with that,” LAC Shomali said.
“My Dad is from Palestine, he is Arabic. Growing up, Mum and Dad wanted us to visit family who still live there but they held off because it was an unstable environment.
“I’m glad I was able to finally spend time in the Middle East.”