A Royal Australian Navy aviator has been given a special honour by Japan after a recent deployment to the Middle East.
Lieutenant Daniel Iwata of 723 Squadron was deployed as Air Operations Officer for Combined Task Force 151, Bahrain, a multinational task force with the mission of disrupting piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Aden.
The Task Force was under the command of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force and Lieutenant Iwata’s work managing air assets were so admired and appreciated he received both a commendation from Rear Admiral Hiroshi Ito, and the Maritime Self-Defence Force Defence Co-operation Medal.
"Under Lieutenant Iwata’s guidance and professionalism, Combined Task Force 151 achieved unprecedented results," Rear Admiral Ito's commendation stated.
"His superior performance, outstanding leadership and inspiring devotion to duty reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of both naval services."
Lieutenant Iwata has only been in the Royal Australian Navy for four years, having originally trained as a veterinary surgeon. The leap from animal care to Aviation Warfare may seem like a huge one but for Lieutenant Iwata it was a natural progression.
"I was working at the University of Queensland where I had a fantastic leader, Professor Gail Anderson and she really inspired and encouraged me to pursue my own leadership style," he said.
"I took time out to consider what I was looking for in life and the things I was looking for were to develop my leadership skills and communication styles, to be part of an awesome team environment, and to give back to the community so I really couldn't get past Defence."
Lieutenant Iwata said the Task Force experience was a definite career highlight.
"I really felt like I was part of the bigger picture," he said.
"It certainly put into perspective why we do the training we do.
"Our work provided a major global economic stabilising role for the world's economy.
"To work with so many different nations and to be part of history, by participating in an activity which Japan has not conducted for 70 years - it was quite breathtaking."
Lieutenant Iwata said the recognition reinforced that the positive outcomes of a mission are not just a result of one individual but the sum of all parts.
"Whenever I look at the award it reminds me of how a positive team effort and cohesion, and aspiring to do the best you can at all times, brings about the best outcome possible."