[US Veterans to Australia 2012] Blair Milo on the Vets Program in Australia
ACYPL had a really exciting first this year: a program focused entirely on military veterans in political careers. Six of our best and brightest took part, traveling to Australia on one of ACYPL’s most established and robust programs. Here’s delegate Blair Milo on the experience:
Our visit to Royal Australian Air Force Base Edinburgh started on a cool rainy morning here in Adelaide. After meeting out host, the Air Base Executive Officer, we first went to an operational P-3 Orion patrol squadron. As usual, I was struck by the similarities between the RAAF and our US squadrons. The squadron brief covered capabilities of the platform and the operations the squadron had been on over the past few years. A very interesting aspect of their recent activities was their participation with the boat refugees crisis that has been in the news continuously since we have been in Australia.
We then had an opportunity to go aboard an operational P-3 aircraft in 92 Wing. After a briefing of the crew responsibilities and a few stories about experiences while deployed, the group headed over to No 1 Radar Surveillance Unit. This group has a uniquely Australian capability that watches the northern costal approaches. Finally, we had an opportunity to talk to the Air Commodore who commands the air base as well as the testing of new aircraft and capabilities for the RAAF. With the significant amount of procurement from the United States by the RAAF, understanding this aspect of the Australian procurement process was helpful and highlighted the cooperation between our two countries. During lunch at the Officers Mess, we also had an opportunity to hear a military view of the Australian political system and how the military and veterans are integrated into the Australian society.
Following the base visit, we spent a short time at Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organization. This facility conducts defense research and development for the Commonwealth and coordinates with the U.S. in a number of areas. The short tour with some of the leading researchers at the facility gave a doctoral level picture of their capabilities and the approach to research in this sector.
Building on the focus on U.S.-Australian cooperation in defense, we had afternoon tea with Mr. John Olson, the Deputy Chairman and CEO of the American Australian Association. John is the former Cousul General to the U.S. in Los Angeles. His views on the political and business climate between Australian and the U.S. was very insightful and built on long experience. He gave the group a good summary of the similarities that he sees between our two countries as well as key differences.
The highlight of the day was an evening dinner at the residence of The Honorable Amanda Vanstone, who has had numerous ministerial positions at the Federal level in Australia, including serving as the Ambassador to Italy. The evening was filled with great food, wine, and interesting conversation across a wide range of topics. Amanda was a gracious hostess, an expert debater, and by the end of the night a good friend.