Home' Air Force News : May 12th 2011 Contents 9
May 12, 2011
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THE year 1966 was a momentous
year in Australia.
Harold Holt succeeded
Robert Menzies as prime minis-
ter, the first group of National Service
conscripts flew out of RAAF Base
Richmond for Vietnam, Bob Dylan
made his first tour, decimal currency
was introduced, and a young Maeve
Tennent joined the WRAAF.
She had not been far from the
northern NSW town of Murwillumbah
when, on January 18, at the age of 18,
she moved to RAAF Base Amberley
to begin what has become the longest
period of service of any woman in the
At the time WOFF Tennent was,
she said, "a very frightened little
Service careers for women were
reasonably limited 45 years ago. She
chose to become a stewardess because
she enjoyed meeting people rather
than being cooped up in an office.
In just four years, she reached the
highest rank available to women at
the time, sergeant. She said it was not
until she was mixing with the men in
the Sergeants' Mess that she realised
that, at the age of 22, she could be a
sergeant for the rest of her service life.
She worked in Air Force messes
until 1977 when the WRAAF amalga-
mated into the RAAF and the steward-
ess mustering was disbanded.
She then had the same job opportu-
nities as her male counterparts.
In March 1987, personal reasons
resulted in her transitioning to the
RAAFAR and she joined No 23 (City
of Brisbane) Squadron at Amberley.
She said that she then touched a
weapon for the first time.
A major career change confronted
her in 2000, when Air Force disbanded
the steward mustering and outsourced
dining room and bar service. She
transferred to catering as a cook.
"My first preference was to be a
transport driver," she said. "The fact
that I didn't have a driver's licence
made that choice a little problem-
Nevertheless, she could drive,
which she did during the 1974 floods,
ferrying vehicles at midnight out of
flood-threatened hangars at Amberley.
She said the recent Queensland
floods brought back strong memories
of those times.
Over the years WOFF Tennent
has been described as 'an anchor' at
23SQN, mentoring younger recruits.
She said she had witnessed a num-
ber of major changes in her 45 years in
the Air Force, some of which made her
wonder. Nevertheless, she still rates
the introduction of equal opportunity
for women as a highlight. Another
was serving some very interesting
people, particularly former Governor-
General Sir Roden Cutler VC, whom
she remembers with a great deal of
Now, at the age of 63, WOFF
Tennent has 18 months to complete
before reaching compulsory retire-
ment age. Will she then look to an
age extension and maybe 50 complete
years in uniform?
"I don't know about that. I don't
know if I could do my personal fitness
training for that long, thank you very
much," she said.
She said when she did pass through
the Amberley gates for the last time as
a reservist she would think of all the
mates she had met, as well as the peo-
ple she had helped with advice, with a
shoulder to cry on, and a great deal of
compassion and understanding.
As evidenced by the crowd at her
recent 45th anniversary morning tea,
when that time comes she will be
Colleagues recently marked the achievement of WOFF Maeve Tennent,
of 23SQN, who has reached 45 years of service. Paul Lineham reports.
STORIES TO TELL: WOFF Maeve Tennent after being congratulated for
completing 45 years in the Air Force.
Photo: LACW Jessica Smith
Still going strong
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