Three stars for adventurous half-lifetime

Department of Defence

Air Commodore Tony Jones has served half the life of the Air Force after joining as an 18-year-old cadet in 1972, when the Caribou and Canberra bomber flew their final missions in Vietnam.

When he retires in July, he will have served 51 years and 361 days, leaving as the head of a group, who, for the past 13 years, worked with the Indonesian Air Force to improve aviation safety.

This month, Air Commodore Jones received his third Federation Star (or seventh clasp to the Defence Long Service Medal).

The star is awarded after 40 years, with additional clasps presented every five years.

He is one of 26 people in Air Force and 77 in Defence to earn this recognition.

Only two personnel have been awarded a fourth Federation Star.

“Life just goes past pretty fast,” Air Commodore Jones said.

“It’s always been an adventure, when you’re enjoying yourself and working hard it all passes in a blur.”

Working with regional partners was a far cry from his first role as an SP2H Neptune air electronics officer.

He left the permanent Air Force in 2010 after 37 years and was asked to continue reserve work heading a project to work with the Indonesian Air Force.

The Joint Working Group on Safety and Airworthiness is one of Air Force’s longest-running projects.

It capped off a long relationship with Southeast Asia and the most challenging period of his career.

During his posting as the as the Air Attaché to Indonesia, he was on the ground immediately after the Boxing Day tsunami coordinating the Air Force-led response to the disaster.

“It was basically disaster central for the four years I was there, with the Boxing Day tsunami, our Embassy bombed, the Yogyakarta earthquake and second Bali bombings, the RAAF was instrumental in providing assistance,” Air Commodore Jones said.

“It was a challenging time, but supporting Indonesia was part of my job and I was l fortunate to be part of an amazing team.

“The work we did made a real difference in alleviating the suffering of the Indonesian victims of these disasters.”

In July, Air Commodore Jones will pass the baton at the Joint Working Group to his deputy.

But that doesn’t mean it will be time to slow down.

“I’m not the sort of person who puts my feet up and does nothing,” he said.

“Life is too short for that. I’ve got plenty to keep me busy with family, and travel is highest on the agenda.”

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