“Hey Gibbo, can you pick me up from the airport today?” I knew that my mate, JB, was on a holiday and I was happy to pick him up so we could catch up over a brew. Driving through the Brisbane traffic toward the airport, I remember thinking about what I was doing with my life and where I was going. Having left one job and about to start another, questions were still floating around my head about whether I should join the Australian Defence Force in a non-flying capacity, given that I still had the distant memory of the recruiting officer telling me I could never fly with them because of my eyesight.
As I pulled along side the airport pick-up area, I could see JB dressed far smarter than he would otherwise have been for just coming off a holiday, but I thought nothing more of it. “Hi mate, how was your holiday?” JB looked at me as he shut the door and gave an upbeat smirk. “Really good, but actually…” he paused. The suspense of a whodunit movie shot through me. “I didn’t go on a holiday. I just got back from the defence force pilot selection at Tamworth and I got recommended!” My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe JB was telling me that he just got recommended after two weeks of ground and flight testing. I was so happy for him and slightly envious too! Moreover, what JB said next fed the will to hunt for my dream.
“You know, I was talking to the local defence force ophthalmologist (eye specialist) and he believes there’s this new eyesight corrective surgery that could be approved for pilot applicants for the defence force.” That’s all I needed. After getting the details for this ophtho and booking an appointment later that day, I was convinced that I could get to where JB was too. The eye specialist, who was also one of the few defence force approved ophthalmologists, was an old and wise doctor who was not only passionate about military aviation, he was convinced this surgery would be suitable for pilot applicants and he was more than happy to support my application. With the doc telling me that my eyes were capable of receiving the surgery, I wrote to the commanding officer of Aviation Medicine for the defence force to see if these claims were at all a possibility. The commanding officer simply called me back the next day and advised me to apply to the position; “Why don’t you apply and see how you go. You can always appeal a medical rejection.” I could always appeal a rejection. Fighting was the answer. Deep research on the surgery was the ammunition needed.
In the space of two weeks, JB had planted the seed in my head, the ophthalmologist had fertilised this seed, and now the commanding officer of aviation medicine for the defence force was watering it. It was time for action. It was time to apply. But before I could get to my first stage interview, mother nature would put on one of the worst disasters in the history of my city. I’d always wanted to serve my country; it was now time to serve my community.