Former Horsham resident, Damien Ball, is proud to be a part of the Royal Australian Air Force.
"Representing all the people before who have come before me, especially ceremonial events like Anzac Day, hit close to home," Mr Ball said.
"Where I deployed, one squadron formed in 1916 before the air force was even formed, they served 100 years ago where I flew in 2017. That history and tradition is what I take the most pride in."
This year marks 100 years since the establishment of the RAAF.
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The 31-year-old joined in February 2014, and began with a gruelling 18-week training in Sale, specialising in weapons systems.
"When you initially join the Air Force, you go to different platforms but based on your results and flying training, you are then streamed to maritime or fast jets. I wanted fast jets," he said.
Despite being hard to gain entry, Mr Ball earned his way into the Fast Jets.
Fast Jets then led to Hawks Fast Jet training in Newcastle and then Super Hornets in Amberley, Queensland.
Before the Air Force, Mr Ball lived in Horsham for three years; he worked as the manager for Bonnie and Clyde, played acoustic gigs and played footy.
"It came to the point where I was either going to open a shop in Warrnambool or join the air force," he said.
"I love hospitality as well, but I love flying. Fast jets are leading in technology - that caught my eye.
"I was always interested in aviation and military flying, combat flying and shooting missiles and dropping bombs seemed cool. It was also more attractive long term and a new challenge.
"The idea of travelling and seeing a lot of the world and Australia was exciting."
Mr Ball said his first major deployment was in the Middle East in 2017.
"We were based out of the UAE, flying over Iraq and Syria for about four months fighting ISIS," he said.
"It was the most full-on flying I had done. I'd only been qualified for six months on the jet at that point."
It wasn't an easy. He was confined to a cockpit for nine hours a day, battling ISIS in extreme heat.
"Living in a tent in the desert and it's 50 degrees every day is a shock to the system anyway, let alone flying eight to nine-hour missions strapped into the jet, which is abnormal," he said.
"Every bit of flying I'd done up to that point is only around an hour, maybe two at most, in fast jets. That's how long you can fly without refuelling.
"We were refueling in the air, plugging into a tanker with a hose off the back while we were airborne about five times a missions to stay airborne for about nine or ten hours."
He said he became very tight with fellow pilots living in the desert for four months.
Because Mr Ball's base was three hours away from Iraq and Syria, the pilots undertook counterinsurgency by flying overhead and getting direct communications.
"In that type of environment, weapons aren't being dropped on planned targets," he explained.
"Pilots fly overhead, getting communications with people on the ground embedded with the Iraqi forces, who are typically US or Australian forces. As they push through towns, as forces are engaged by counter fires by ISIS, they will radio us the location, and we will attempt to identify with our sensors on the jet, then get clearances to deploy that way.
"We would do three to four hours overhead and then tag, as a pair, two Super Hornets and then tag out with two US or UK jets who would take over for the next four hours."
As a Fast Jet pilot deployed overseas, Mr Ball said senior officers helped prepare him for the mission.
"Some of the more senior officers has previous experience from 2014, they gave us briefs about how people deal with it differently. The really long missions, the strange environment, dropping bombs, officers prepared us and told us that our reactions were natural no matter what that may be," Mr Ball said.
"Coming home, the biggest thing was giving yourself time. The strangest thing was the juxtaposition between flying over there and coming home and everything as it was four months ago, and no one is any the wiser of all the things you have seen and done in the last four months.
"The fatigue took months and months to recover."
Mr Ball said he wouldn't change the choice he made back in 2014 to join the Air Force.
"I don't think I'd change anything," he said.
"The exercises I have been a part of around the world have been awesome. I've loved it and I don't plan on leaving any time soon. I'll fly as long as I can."
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