Full time Royal Australian Navy Petty Officer Ann-Maree Anderson dressed in her Royal Australian Air Force Cadets uniform to receive an Australian Cadet Forces Service Medal from her Navy boss, Head of Navy Engineering, Rear Admiral Colin Lawrence.
Confused? Let’s clear things up: Ann-Maree joined the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) as a Radio Operator in 1976 and discharged in 1984, after she fell pregnant with her first child. She returned to Navy’s workforce in 1988 as a Reservist in the Royal Australian Navy. As her son grew and showed an interest in the Royal Australian Air Force in 1998, Ann-Maree became involved with the Australian Air Force Cadets (AAFC).
Ann-Maree said that she was heavily involved in the Parents Support Committee at her local squadron, which like all adult staff members, is a volunteer position.
“I was approached to become a uniformed staff member and in July 2004 I was officially appointed as Administration Officer at the rank of Sergeant,” she said.
“In 2007 I was promoted to Flight Sergeant and in 2012 I became the first female Wing Warrant Officer for 2 Wing AAFC in Southern Queensland.”
“When I returned to the Royal Australian Navy in a Continuous Full Time Service role located in Canberra, I also transferred from 2 Wing AAFC (Queensland) to 3 Wing AAFC (New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory).”
Petty Officer Anderson says that during her time in Cadets she has been lucky to participate in some amazing things, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one highlight.
“I was at Amberley when the first C17 arrived. I was part of a special flight that took Cadets from Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria to Tasmania for a weekend for a Banner presentation,” she said.
“In 2014 as part of the International Air Force Cadet Exchange I escorted seven Australian Air Force Cadets to Canada for a fourteen day exchange.
“During that visit I went in a helicopter for a flight over Edmonton as well as my first glider flight. It’s an amazing feeling being up in the air, chasing thermals, not a sound anywhere.”
When the Invictus Games came to Sydney, Petty Officer Anderson couldn’t wait to be a part of it.
“I applied as a volunteer for the airport team during the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney.”
“Meeting the teams as they came through customs at the Airport was such an uplifting and exhilarating experience.
“I just started hugging people as they arrived and pretty soon people were lined up to get a hug.
“I was not aware that I had been dubbed the ‘Official Invictus Hugger’ until I had people come up and ask me if I was the hugger, and could they have a hug.
“It was such an amazing experience and now consider myself part of the Invictus Family”.
Ann-Maree Anderson was awarded the Australian Cadet Forces Service Medal, which is presented to individuals that have accrued 15 years’ of service as Officers or Instructors of Cadets.