Group Captain Kerry Hollings’ work executing the NATO funding in Afghanistan, boosting recruitment diversity and developing a new professional military training framework has helped her be named a Member in the Military Division of the Order of Australia in this year’s Australia Day honours.
The award recognised her achievements across several years and postings, starting with her management of the NATO Afghan National Army trust fund, worth about $1 billion, from 2013-2014.
She regularly worked 15-hour days in Afghanistan to progress funding for different projects to enhance the readiness of Afghan security forces.
These included literacy programs, major capability acquisition, infrastructure and sustainment projects such as hospitals, education facilities, police force funding and women’s programs.
“All project proposals were carefully examined and negotiated with respective NATO nations through the embassies, NATO and SHAPE,” Group Captain Hollings said.
“Managing international relations with the country representatives in Kabul, NATO and SHAPE was a privilege and, through diplomacy, this enabled many projects to be considered and approved by countries.
“When a project concluded, we would ensure the occasion was celebrated with senior officers from the Afghan National Army and the US Army invited to officiate with a report presented to the donor nation and NATO showcasing the efficacy of the new capability.”
As the Air Force Recruiting Liaison Officer from 2018 to 2020, Group Captain Hollings led and managed Air Force’s strategic recruitment requirements.
She presided over expansion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recruitment activities, aiming for a swifter, culturally sensitive recruitment.
She convened dedicated Indigenous recruitment activities with key Indigenous recruiters to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel more comfortable with the process.
“Rather than making the Indigenous candidates wait for a particular job to become available, we would move heaven and earth to remove barriers and bring forward targets to offer candidates a job immediately,” she said.
Group Captain Hollings’ citation also credited her work as Commanding Officer of the School of Postgraduate Studies, where she led the school in embedding Air Force’s new professional military education framework, Program Wirraway.
COVID-19 hit during this time and the school rapidly updated technological and modernised software to enable the widest reach for students.
This included establishment of radio stations with video capability to facilitate interactive classes and group discussions.
The school conducts leadership, communication, business skilling and air and space power education to about 2800 students per year.
“The technology vastly assisted remote learning to provide a more interactive experience than conducting it through Zoom or GovTeams,” Group Captain Hollings said.
“It assisted considerably because lots of people were working from home and starved of interaction with others.”
While Group Captain Hollings believed the most effective learning occurred face-to-face, the radio station was an “excellent” workaround.
They now also have a system where personnel can take part in courses from anywhere in the world.
Group Captain Hollings said it was a privilege to help expand the professional knowledge of personnel at different career stages.
“We were constantly evaluating to ascertain if a particular initiative was hitting the mark while still challenging people and pushing them out of their comfort zone,” she said.
“Feedback from commanders and students is that [the education] is valued and I attribute this success to the excellent product and talented facilitators.”