Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) personnel are in Paris for the French National Day Parade on 14 July 2016, and are in the midst of their rehearsals for the significant international event. The French National Day commemorates the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, and the Fête de la Fédération which celebrated unity of the French people on 14 July 1970.
The Australian Defence Force’s participation in the French National Day Parade involves marching in the ‘Position of Honour’ so while there is a great sense of pride and honour amongst the Australian servicemen and women involved, there is also an inordinate sense of responsibility to perform well.
Since arriving in Paris, rehearsals for the parade have taken place at the Lycée Militaire de Saint-Cyr (Military school), Satory Military Base and on the Champs-Élysées. On 10 July, the troops practiced their formations and their drill, marching down the Champs-Élysées with the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile as the backdrop.
“The guys and girls are working exceptionally well together at the rehearsals and I am really impressed with how their drill practice is going so far. This is extremely positive for the group,” said Squadron Leader Andrew Grace.
Squadron Leader Grace is the Continent Commander for the 30 RAAF personnel who will be on parade with their fellow Australian Defence Force members in the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Army.
“The personnel in the RAAF group are from different trades from all around Australia. We have members from Tasmania, Darwin and Perth, as well as Adelaide, Melbourne, Townsville, Brisbane and Canberra. So we are really stretching across the entire country”, said Squadron Leader Grace.
“It was a difficult selection process undertaken by Air Force headquarters as we had three times the number of nominations required. I am extremely happy with the level of professionalism within my contingent and I am proud to lead them”.
Within the RAAF contingent there are seven females, members from aircraft technical trades, clerks, a pilot, one carpenter, air surveillance operators, three members with family connections to the Western Front and representatives from each of the squadrons that had roles during World War I on the Western Front.