Katherine (Kate) Russell
Ngunnawal Woman
Pilot Officer
Air Force Logistics Officer
Royal Australian Air Force

Australian Defence Medal
Australian Defence Force Bronze Commendation


I grew up in Canberra, the youngest of three children to the two hardest working parents. I spent my younger years playing any and all sports. If I could throw it, hit it, catch it, kick it, chase it… you name it, I’ve probably played it. I was never a stand-out student, and most days I would’ve preferred to be on the field than in the classroom. After graduating from Year 12, I spent a few years working casual jobs and pursuing my love of sport. I always struggled to decide on what I wanted to do with my life, thinking, ‘Do I study?’ But I didn’t know what I wanted to study, ‘Do I want to travel?’ But I couldn’t decide where I wanted to go. Or ‘do I join the public service like everyone else in Canberra does?’ But sitting in an office of white, black and beige colour schemes never appealed to me. I was lucky enough to have a group of girlfriends who were Australian Defence Force Academy cadets at the time who suggested that I join Defence and that way, I’d have 4 years of guaranteed income, work experience, and time away from Canberra to decide where I wanted to go with my life. I scrolled down the Defence Jobs site and saw Air Force Dog Handler, and I was sold.

I enlisted in 2017 and conducted recruit school in Wagga Wagga before heading North to RAAF Amberley, where I conducted an Air Force Security basic course. During this time, I was teamed with MWD Petra, a Belgium Malinois, who became my partner through the next phase of my career. Petra and I posted to 1SECFOR Richmond, where we spent every working hour together, be it 40-degree days walking the hardstand conducting patrols or -5 degrees of a night huddled together in the truck keeping each other warm. Every birthday, Christmas, New Years, Easter was spent with Petra. Petra and I shared the good times and bad times, she was always there to listen and to share an AAFCANs muffin. After a number of years, Petra was no longer required for service and deemed suitable for retirement. I was lucky enough to retire Petra to my home where she and I still spend each day together, and still share a muffin from time to time.

After Petras’s retirement, I sought the next opportunity. I saw the Individualised Pathway to the Academy posted on the website and thought, ‘I have nothing to lose by applying’. My intent was to apply, receive feedback as to areas for growth and then apply again in a few years. I was honoured to recieve an offer to commission in my initial application. I attended Officer Training School in 2021 and returned to 22SQN Richmond in the interim before starting at ADFA. The time at 22SQN was career-changing for me, and I am forever grateful to everyone who offered their words of wisdom and knowledge to me during this time.

Since 2022, I have been completing an Undergraduate Bachelor of Business at UNSW ADFA. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Academy and would absolutely recommend it to anyone who would have the opportunity to post there, as staff or student. It has been an unreal experience and one I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity. I look forward to the next step in my career and would encourage anyone to pursue their goals and passions, even if they don’t feel they fit the mold. Being different and unique is what makes us special, and we, as Indigenous personnel, provide a capability money cannot buy.