Meet new commanding officer of Lismore’s 41st Battalion
SHE commanded Australia's CH-47 Rotary Wing Group and flew Chinook helicopters over Afghanistan.
Now Lieutenant Colonel Susana Fernandez is leading the 41st Battalion in Lismore.
It has been an amazing journey for this Northern Rivers woman.
After spending 22 years in the regular army, including one peacekeeping mission to Timor and two deployments to Afghanistan, Lt Col Fernandez, 45, has officially taken over the command of the 41st Battalion, Royal New South Wales Regiment (41 RNSWR).
The 45-year-old is responsible for the overall operational effectiveness of the unit in terms of military capability, welfare and general discipline.
"I left the army full-time in 2014 and transitioned to active reserves," she said.
"Before I took on this role I held a staff officer appointment working for the Director General of Aviation, and this is much harder work, but has much greater rewards."
Ensuring the 41st Battalion has a larger presence on the Northern Rivers is one of the goals Lt Col Fernandez has in her sights.
But as the first female Australian Defence Force Academy graduate to complete the Army's pilot training course, she's up to the challenge.
"Our Battalion is very dispersed, we run 550km from Taree to the Tweed," she said.
"I want to increase our presence and engagement in the community and with emergency services and local councils, so we can offer support of times of emergency such as when we helped with the bushfires last year and now with COVID-19."
In regional and rural areas, the Army Reserve offers residents part-time employment opportunities.
"I want our team to grow and be more diverse with more women and indigenous members," Lt Col Fernandez said.
"We take all kinds of people and your commitment can be as much or as little as you want, you build great sills, confidence, leadership."
Outside of work, she said loves living with her husband their four children on their farm at Corndale.
"My husband Jerrod is a former Army engineer," she said.
"Now he's a full-time farmer of free range pigs and kid-wrangler."