Elise Carey, Flight Lieutenant, Royal Australian Air Force, Afghanistan

Elise Carey
Flight Lieutenant
Royal Australian Air Force

The Australian War Memorial has always had a special place in Elise Carey’s heart.

“I love the War Memorial,” she said.

“I’ve been going there since I was a little kid, and I always remember the Hall of Memory and the Roll of Honour. My great-uncle served in the Second World War and we used to go as much as possible and put a poppy beside his name.

“I think it should be a special place for everyone – just to reflect on those who came before us, and what they have done for our country.”

Today, Elise is a Logistics Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force and often visits the Memorial to present the stories of those who served at the Last Post Ceremony.

“My mum was in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in the ’70s, and my sister was in the Navy for a few years, so that definitely impacted upon my decision to join when I was unsure of my future career path in high school.

“I joined through ADFA and on graduation was posted to RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland, where I worked in Combat Support Group units. During my third year at Amberley, I deployed to Afghanistan, where I was an adviser to the Afghan Air Force, advising them on logistics – primarily in warehousing, vehicle management, and stock and supply.

“We had no idea what we were walking into; we were the first Australians embedded in Train, Advise and Assist Command - Air, a US-led mission to support the Afghans to establish a fully functioning Air Force, training locals to not only fly – but to also support the flying operations . It was a great opportunity to work with so many different defence forces from around the world. It was very unique and I look back on it now as a great experience.”

She will never forget the landscape and the people she worked with.

“It would have been late February when we arrived, and I remember walking off the plane. Kabul is essentially like a big dog bowl surrounded by 360-degree mountains, and I just remember looking at all the snow-capped mountains and thinking, ‘Wow, this isn’t what I expected at all.’

“Kabul is unique in that it sits at 1600m elevation - I can remember walking upstairs with my body armour and two bags in tow on arrival, and I was exhausted after one flight of stairs at that elevation.”

She remembers fondly the Afghans she worked with and how welcoming they were.

“I can remember one time we went for a meeting, and my US counterpart was about to leave the country, so they wanted to thank us and celebrate our time together. They had gone out and bought some local Afghan snacks for us, and I didn’t realise until afterwards that they probably didn’t have as much food that day because they were trying to do something nice for us. They are very giving: they will give to other people before they eat themselves, and I guess that’s something that really stood out to me.

“I will probably never be able to have that experience again, and I’m proud that I was able to be a part of that.”

As a young veteran herself, she believes it is important for the Memorial to be able to display objects and artefacts from current conflicts to help tell the continuing story of modern veterans.

“When people think veterans, they often think of the older generations,” she said.

“That’s not to take anything away from them; the people who went into conflicts before us should definitely have their stories told, but I think a lot of people don’t realise that there are younger members in our society who have also deployed into war-like environments.

“I think the more stories we can tell the better it is, to give all Australians a better appreciation of how we serve in the modern military environment.

“I think it’s a great place for Australians to reflect on those who have served, either by choice or through conscription, over the years. I think it’s important to remember what we’ve done to ensure that moving forward we don’t make the same mistakes that we’ve made in the past.”

Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians

The Australian War Memorial acknowledges the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia. We recognise their continuing connection to land, sea and waters. We pay our respects to elders past and present.