Deep connections and high bonding in Indonesia

Hiking to the summit of Indonesia’s second highest mountain, Mt Rinjani, was a highlight of 2022 for Squadron Leader Alex Smith, along with forming deep friendships and connections.

On graduating from the Indonesian Air Force Command and Staff course on November 10, Squadron Leader Smith reflected on the life-long connections he formed with the Indonesian Air Force (TNI AU) and other foreign officers during his posting to Lembang, West Java.

Squadron Leader Smith found the command and staff course highly challenging but deeply rewarding.

“There’s a shared feeling of adversity among the participants, which has created deep connections that transcend geographical and cultural borders. Therein lies the purpose of these exchange postings,” Squadron Leader Smith said.

“All lectures were conducted in Indonesian and were mentally exhausting.

“I’d often come home and need a short nap to recharge before getting stuck into homework.”

Despite Indonesia being geographically close to Australia, the differences in culture and language intrigued Squadron Leader Smith enough to study at Sekolah Staf dan Komando Angkatan Udara, known as SESKOAU.

Squadron Leader Smith said representative positions like this are a two-way street.

The purpose was not just embedding himself in the TNI organisation, but to also share his knowledge and viewpoints to the host nation.

“It was particularly interesting to discuss airbase management, aviation safety and airfield engineering techniques and to offer suggestions on how we can both improve the way we do business,” he said.

The staff course – a masters program – included subjects such as military history, air power, combined and joint operations and strategic studies.

International Night was another highlight for Squadron Leader Smith.

On these occasions, foreign officers got to parade their national culture for the host nation.

Squadron Leader Smith served kangaroo satays and Vegemite sandwiches. While the satays were popular, there were interesting responses to the taste of the black paste.

“I don’t think we will be exporting more Vegemite to Indonesia any time soon,” he said.

In 2020, Squadron Leader Smith spent a year studying Bahasa Indonesia at the ADF School of Languages in preparation for his stint at the college.

He was delayed attending SESKOAU by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but maintained his new language skills by regularly practising online with a native Indonesian speaker.

The airfield engineer said the training has opened up new career options, such as instructing at the college or becoming an Air Force Attaché.






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