Royal Australian Air Force Flight Sergeant Damian Gardiner’s extraordinary technical ability and interpersonal skills were recognised on this year’s Australia Day honours list.
CAPTION: Flight Sergeant Damian Gardiner was awarded a Conspicuous Service Cross for his work helping to introduce the F-35 Lightning II into service. Story by Flight Lieutenant Jessica Aldred. Photo by Corporal Dan Pinhorn.
Flight Sergeant Gardiner was awarded a Conspicuous Service Medal for developing and implementing essential maintenance practices as part of the F-35A Lightning II introduction into No. 3 Squadron – the first of Royal Australian Air Force’s operational Lightning squadrons.
Flight Sergeant Gardiner said he felt humbled, honoured and proud to receive the recognition.
“This award means a great deal to both my family and I,” Flight Sergeant Gardiner said.
“My family provides me with an exceptional level of support, especially during my F-35A journey, which allows me to fully commit to my duties and perform to the best of my ability.
“I feel this honour recognises their contribution as much as mine.
“This honour is the highlight of my career to date and something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
Flight Sergeant Gardiner’s RAAF career began in 2000, after which he spent 12 years working on air mobility platforms before posting into Air Combat Group in 2013 to work with the F/A-18A/B Hornets.
In 2017, following selection for the Air Combat Transition Office tasked to introduce the F-35A, he was embedded within the United States Air Force’s 61st Aircraft Maintenance Unit for 12 months at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
This was followed by his appointment as the No. 3 Squadron maintenance coordinator.
Flight Sergeant Gardiner said he had been given the opportunity to work across a diverse range of roles, including maintenance, training and engineering support.
“I’ve seen the Australian Lightning enterprise grow from a very small number of maintainers, pilots and logistics staff to now having four F-35A squadrons up and running,” Flight Sergeant Gardiner said.
“Helping the Royal Australian Air Force reach this exceptional achievement in such a compressed timeframe is what motivates me to continue to strive for excellence and help the organisation grow and mature further to support Australia’s strategic objectives.
“Working with exceptional people over the years and forging lifelong friendships has, above all else, been the most rewarding aspect of my career.”
Now posted to Texas in the United States, Flight Sergeant Gardiner is looking forward to using his expertise to provide technical sustainment support for Australia’s F-35A fleet.