Airfield engineer hits the ground running

The world was stunned by images of jumbo jets sloshing down a flooded runway at Dubai airport after freak storms inundated the city.

CAPTION: Air Force airbase engineer Flight Lieutenant Eamonn Matthews is deployed on Operation Accordion to Headquarters Middle East. Story and photos by Corporal Jacob Joseph. 

Australia’s main operating base in the Middle East region didn’t escape the deluge.

Flight Lieutenant Eamonn Matthews arrived in time to see parts disappear underwater.

“The weapons range had become an Olympic-sized swimming pool,” he said.

He’d just experienced North Queensland’s Tropical Cyclone Kirrily weeks before deploying on Operation Accordion.

It’s his first deployment since graduating from the ADF Academy in 2020.

“You’d think a tropical cyclone would bring more rain than a desert storm, but apparently not,” he said.

His predecessor had just completed maintenance of the weapons range before rain began to erode the sandy walls.

“I called him up to tell him about these once-in-a-lifetime storms,” Flight Lieutenant Matthews said.

“Sometimes all you can do is laugh and get on with the job.”

The Townsville-based airfield engineer is deployed on Operation Accordion to Headquarters Middle East.

Operation Accordion oversees the logistics and administration for more than 10 operations in the Middle East, such as the ADF’s contribution to maritime security in the Red Sea through Operation Manitou.

Growing up in Yeronga, Brisbane, Flight Lieutenant Matthews was set on engineering from the day he left school.

It took years of study in Canberra to discover he’d rather be on site than behind a desk.

With recent renovations to Australian infrastructure at Camp Baird, engineers like Flight Lieutenant Matthews are never short of projects.

“We get to do a lot of on-site quality assurance stuff, ensuring concrete pores correctly and installing key structural items,” he said.

“There’s a lot that could happen in the region and this is the hub for ADF operations in the Middle East.

“It doesn’t matter how small the job is, knowing that the things I help build could be used in years to come is really rewarding.”


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