Lara Bartos

After graduating from KRB in 2022, I joined the Air Force as part of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) Gap year program. This is a program which allows you to enlist into the ADF for just 1 year. I started in Feb 2023 and spent my first few months doing Basic Military Training in Wagga Wagga. This is the course that all new Air Force Recruits must pass with the goal of transitioning you from civilian to service life. It is both physically and mentally demanding and includes fitness, discipline, military knowledge, weaponry and field craft amongst other skills. Over my year, this period was definitely the most challenging, especially the initial weeks in which I struggled with homesickness and adapting to my new environment. With 5:00am wake ups everyday, marching everywhere, getting yelled at by instructors and having to measure my sheets while making my bed every morning, it was certainly not easy! My all-time-low was one night when we were “out field,” we had been sand-bagging until 2:00am and I had to be up for guard duty soon so my pit-mate and I decided to not put up our hootchie (tarp to cover us while we slept). I was awoken an hour later by intense thunder and lightning and torrential rain. My clothes and my sleeping bag were drenched, I was freezing cold, and while my buddy and I desperately tried to set up our hootchie in the dark without rope, I seriously questioned why I ever joined. I spent the rest of the night hiding in the toilet block to escape the rain and cold. Fortunately, experiences like that are few and far between and the resilience you build is invaluable.

After I graduated Recruits, I went to Brisbane to complete my employment training; a course specific to your job role. I enlisted as Air Force Security so my employment training involved activities such as combat first aid, self-defence, patrol and guard, pistol shooting, more advanced assault-rifle training and knowledge of Air Force assets and rules of engagement. The duration of the course was 14 weeks and was the highlight of my gap year; we had an amazing group of people and instructors and our training was engaging and a lot of fun. After I graduated Employment Training, I was fully qualified and posted to 27 Squadron at RAAF Base Townsville where I spent the remainder of my year. I operated as part of 27SQN Security Flight, which involved being the first responders on base and securing defence assets. This meant working shift – we would work six 8 hour shifts (two of which were night shifts) and then get four days off. I both loved and hated shift work, as I had a great work-life balance, however, I struggled a lot with fatigue during the night shifts.


RAAF Base Townsville is a small and relatively quiet Base meaning our job was pretty easy, but I did have to respond to some incidents including a fire on Base and a medical emergency. During my time, I also got to participate in some military exercises, including Exercise Black Dagger and Exercise Global Dexterity. I also had the opportunity to go to the extremely remote RAAF Base Scherger located on the Cape York peninsula.


Overall, I have had an amazing time doing the ADF Gap Year. The aspect I love most about defence is the community; no matter where you are or how different the people are, it is so easy to meet and create connections with people. Over the year, I have worked with and met so many amazing individuals and it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience; the personal growth, life lessons and connections I have experienced are invaluable (and the pay is great too!). At the end of the Gap Year you decide if you would like to sign on full time, leave, or join reserves. Although I loved my gap year, it was my plan all along to leave. In 2024, I am becoming a reservist, moving to Canberra and studying a double degree of economics and security studies at ANU. I look forward to pursuing a more academic pathway but am grateful for everything I’ve experienced and will continue to experience through the Air Force.