Commander - RAAF Combat Surgical Team - Squadron Leader Cooper RN
Oil on Canvas
700mm x 1000mm
2010 - (Special Commendation, RAAF Heritage Awards. Purchased by RAAF Museum)
"Squadron Leader Cooper (now SQNLDR Bown) joined the RAAF in 1999 after her training as a registered nurse in Hobart. Within the year, she was deployed to East Timor for six months! Quite a change from working in a quiet Tasmanian hospital.
"Through her military career she impressed all for whom - and with whom - she worked as being a consummate professional officer and military nurse.
"As a member of an Aeromedical Team, during her second tour of East Timor, she was en route to assist a Timorese woman who was having birthing difficulties when the helicopter in which she was travelling crashed in bad weather. Suffering a broken back and broken jaw, she was repatriated to Australia and began the long road to recovery learning how to walk again.
"Within a little over a year, and still undergoing painful physiotherapy, she was chosen to be the Aide-de-Camp to the Minister for Defence, Dr Brendan Nelson. This was a very busy year for her as she undertook the important roles of the Minister's right hand person in uniform.
"In 2008 she was again chosen for a special task; the command of the RAAF surgical team assigned to work with the Dutch in Afghanistan where she was not only charged with commanding the surgical team, but also continued to act as an operational nurse caring for not only Australian and Allied troops, but also many Afghani nationals.
"This image here shows her overseeing the operations of the surgical team - highly experienced surgeons from the RAAF specialist reserve - whilst undertaking her other tasks as the team's commander.
"The aim of this painting was not only as a portrait, but also to show how we, as a military, change with the times. Here, a woman commands a combined team of men and women; a Squadron Leader is in charge of a team consisting of Wing Commanders and Group Captains; a nurse is in charge of doctors. If there is one thing the Defence Force is good at, that is ensuring that the best possible person is placed in charge rather than merely defaulting to the person with the highest rank or a with a longer list of qualifications. When it comes to war, egos must be put aside and a 'get on with the job' attitude must prevail.
"Furthermore, I wanted to maintain the theme of Nora Heysen where she painted many medical themed images during her time in New Guinea and Far North Queensland during the war as well as many portraits of women. My image is a combination of both; a portrait of Squadron Leader Cooper as commander of her team of talented medical personnel who are diligently going about their business. The images below show this theme and variations and the photo at the bottom of a RAAF Surgical Team in New Guinea shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same.