Fulfilling the need to serve and protect

An Afghan girl’s wide eyes looked up beneath the light-brown shayla that wrapped her head and shoulders. A lock of dark hair swept across her olive skin.

CAPTIONWing Commander Fiona Grasby takes time to talk to colleagues about International Women’s Day at Brindabella Park, Canberra. Story and photo by Leading Seaman Nadav Harel.

No more than six years old, the girl’s childhood innocence was in stark contrast to a person born in a warzone.

It’s an image that has stayed with Wing Commander Fiona Grasby to this day.

Deployed as part of the force protection element, then Flight Sergeant Grasby was screening women and children at Tarin Kot, Afghanistan, when she noticed the girl regularly travelling with her mother.

For seven months between 2012 and 2013, she slowly built a friendship with the little girl.

“She would sit with us for the period of time that we were processing all the females and children passengers for the domestic Afghanistan flights,” Wing Commander Grasby said.

She gifted the girl a baby doll and blankets during the winter and it was during this engagement that she first saw her smile.

“We learned so much about humility. It was a wonderful exchange of culture that we experienced for that time between her and our team,” Wing Commander Grasby said.

The team also taught another young girl how to ride a bike.

“She’d never ridden a bike before. She grew up with brothers and wasn’t allowed to ride a bike,” Wing Commander Grasby said.

The lessons learned in Afghanistan influenced Wing Commander Grasby to be the woman she is today.

Enlisting as a 17-year-old in 1987, she started in logistics because she was too young to pursue her passion for policing.

“I ran away and joined the Air Force. As early as I can remember, I always wanted to be a policewoman. I always wanted to serve,” she said.

Wing Commander Grasby transferred to the military police in 1992 and loved it from day one of the basic course. She later specialised in counterintelligence and special investigations.

In 2019, she became the first female Warrant Officer of the Air Force.

During her extensive career, Wing Commander Grasby has always used her leadership position to assist others to achieve their goals and to reach their full potential – even if they didn’t know what it was.

“As a leader, it is not about us. It is about supporting all who we are privileged to serve,” she said.

Wing Commander Grasby is now Commanding Officer of the Joint Military Police Force.

On International Women’s Day this year, she remembered the good humans she has had the privilege of knowing over the years and that have had an impact on her life.

Those like the shy Afghan girl she made friends with many years ago.

“In an incredibly fragile world, where, literally, we were dealing with families that had nothing, she saw the brightness in the simplest things. She taught me the true value of humility,” Wing Commander Grasby said.

“I don’t know what happened to her, but all I do know is that for that period of time, I had the privilege to engage on a human level and learn so many life lessons from someone so young.”


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