Dirty work sets up a high flyer

RAAF School of Technical Training (RAAFSTT) played a pivotal role in Flight Lieutenant Ross Bowman’s career, providing an insight into the operational workings of the Air Force.

CAPTIONRAAF pilot Flight Lieutenant Ross Bowman at RAAF Base Williamtown before flying the F-35 A Lightning II display at the Central Coast Airshow 2022, at Warnervale, NSW. Story by Flight Lieutenant Steffi Blavius. Photo by Corporal Craig Barrett.

“RAAFSTT provided a great foundation for technicians before being posted to a squadron and really kicking off their careers,” Lieutenant Bowman said.

“It opened my eyes to how the Air Force operates in the junior ranks, which I believe has made me a better officer today.”

Born and raised in Dunedoo, NSW, Flight Lieutenant Bowman enlisted in 2005, completing Initial Military Training at RAAF Base Edinburgh before moving to RAAF Base Wagga to learn the skills to become an aircraft technician at the RAAFSTT.

“I was an ATECH (aircraft technician), commonly referred to as a ‘black hander’ as we worked on anything that would get us dirty – hydraulics, fuel, landing gear, engines,” he said.

Flight Lieutenant Bowman spent five years at 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU), working on the Classic Hornet while also studying, working towards his dream of becoming a pilot.

Once Flight Lieutenant Bowman gained his ‘wings’, he spent three years posted to the ‘Mighty Magpies’ (75 Squadron) before spending 18 months in the US completing F-35A operational conversion and instructing Australian and US pilots on the F-35A.

“When I returned to Australia, I spent a brief time at 3 Squadron and now, once again, I’m back at 2OCU, but this time as an instructor,” Flight Lieutenant Bowman said.

“When you see a newly graduated fighter pilot throw on some squadron patches, you know the sense of accomplishment they’re experiencing,” he said.

Flight Lieutenant Bowman reflected on the unique experience of being an F-35A display pilot.

“Flying the F-35A on Australia Day 2022, 60m above the water, at speeds of up to 1000km/h while looking up at the Sydney Harbour Bridge, was an amazing experience and one I’ll never forget,” he said.

“The most rewarding experience of my career has been deploying on Operation Okra.

“Part of the reason was flying the missions but mostly it was seeing the technicians faces light up when I would return with weapons missing and they understood their work had contributed to the success of the mission.”

While not without challenges, Flight Lieutenant Bowman’s career is a testament to grasping opportunities.

“I wasn’t successful in my first application to be a pilot,” he shared.

“But it opened up a new career path that I had not considered before.”

Flight Lieutenant Bowman acknowledges that his Air Force career would not be possible without the support of his loved ones.

“I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have without the support of my wife,” he said.

His advice to others is: “There are endless opportunities out there that will be on offer throughout your Air Force career … take them.”


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