Lieutenant Colonel Wendy Wheadon probably couldn’t have guessed a chance meeting with a young Australian Army officer in the UK would eventually lead her to Kuwait.
More than 20 years ago, the then Royal Air Force officer was studying engineering in the UK when she met her husband.
After living together for a decade, the Scot resigned her commission and became a general service officer in the Australian Army.
“My husband wanted to come home,” Lieutenant Colonel Wheadon said.
“Because every Aussie I know wants to come home eventually.”
Lieutenant Colonel Wheadon and her family started a new life in Australia 10 years ago.
The aeromechanical engineer worked at 1st Aviation Regiment in Darwin and 20th Regiment in Brisbane before posting to Army Headquarters in Canberra.
Now she is deployed to Kuwait as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, the continuing US-led coalition operation against Islamic State.
Midway through her six-month deployment on Operation Okra, Lieutenant Colonel Wheadon is acting deputy director of sustainment and one of a handful of Australians who work in logistics and planning alongside partner nations.
“When I’m not in uniform, I often get mistaken for being British,” Lieutenant Colonel Wheadon said.
“When I’m in uniform everybody just looks at me like I’m strange.”
From joyrides in British Tornado fast jets to hands-on work with attack helicopters in Australia, she said her move to the ADF brought a new perspective on military cooperation.
“Working with Americans in Kuwait highlighted the importance of our joint relationship,” she said.
“The scale of the American support here is astounding.”