Warrant Officer tracks down entitlements for comrades

An air dispatch warrant officer who worked to get his soldiers tens of thousands of dollars in lost parachute entitlements was among those recognised this Australia Day.

Warrant Officer Class 2 John Van de Maele was awarded the Conspicuous Service Medal after almost three years researching and reporting each supported parachute training serial carried out at 176 Air Dispatch Squadron over the past decade.

“Some members were getting paid and others weren’t,” WO2 Van de Maele said.

“There was a lot of work sifting through the records to justify the allowance.

“Everyone who was qualified was paid for what they did.”

He was also recognised for his role in establishing a safety management system within the squadron.

WO2 Van de Maele said to achieve this – by changing workplace culture to one in which personnel could report faults without fear of sanction – was challenging.

“If we find something is incorrect, we don’t persecute the individual,” he said.

“We try to find out why and how it got through safety checks and then improve procedures and training so, as an organisation, we do not to repeat the same mistake.”

At the next aviation safety board, it was acknowledged 176 Air Dispatch Squadron had move ahead in “leaps and bounds”.

However, it was the work to get his soldiers paid correctly that he was most proud of.

“The moment the allowances were signed off and they were all getting paid again, I felt a massive sense of achievement,” WO2 Van de Maele said.

“I felt like we had actually finally cracked the nut.

“It was a big win for the unit and, you know, it was a hard slog behind the scenes.”

While he acknowledged others were involved, WO2 Van de Maele was “totally gobsmacked” to receive the commendation.

“I’ve just been doing my job as always,” he said.

For the full Australia Day lists, visit Homepage | Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia (

Defence image: WO2 John Van De Maele and a rigger from the New Zealand Army build a container delivery system for an air drop. Photo: Corporal David Gibbs


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