Air Commodore Ross Bender
Air Commodore Ross Bender studied as a Mechanical Engineer at the University of Queensland and joined the Royal Australian Air Force as an Aeronautical Engineering Undergraduate in 1989. Following graduation in 1990 Air Commodore Bender completed two postings as an Aeronautical Engineering Officer. Air Commodore Bender was selected, and subsequently graduated from, pilot training on No. 170 Pilot Course in 1996 and was posted to 36 Squadron to fly the C-130H Hercules and then the C-130E Hercules at 37 Squadron.
Following this Air Commodore Bender completed post graduate training as a Qualified Flying Instructor in 2001 and a Flight Commander tour at the Australian Defence Force Basic Flying Training School. He then completed test pilot training at the United States Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, USA in 2003 and was posted to the Aircraft Research and Development Unit as a Qualified Test Pilot completing multiple flight test programs on the C-130 and PC/9A aircraft.
Air Commodore Bender returned to 37 Squadron in 2006 as executive officer of the newly combined C-130H and C-130J fleet and participated in a wide range of operational, humanitarian and exercise deployments. In 2009, Air Commodore Bender became Executive Officer 86 Wing responsible for supporting the Combat Air Mobility provided by C-17 Globemaster, C-130 Hercules, DHC-4 Caribou and B300 Kingair aircraft.
Air Commodore Bender then returned to Aircraft Research and Development Unit in 2010 as Commanding Officer responsible for execution of flight test activities for Air Force and Army aircraft. In 2012, Air Commodore Bender became Officer Commanding Development and Test Wing and was also appointed as the Flight Test Approval Authority for Air Force and Army aircraft. The responsibilities also extended to oversight of Defence Aviation Medicine, Aeronautical Information and aircraft stores compatibility.
His staff appointments within Air Force Headquarters include Director Combat Capability and Director Strategic Design. In 2017, Air Commodore Bender deployed to the Middle East as Commander of the Air Task Group providing the Australian air power contribution to US led coalition under Operation INHERENT RESOLVE.
Air Commodore Bender was promoted to his current rank in January 2019 and commenced duties as Director General Capability Integration, Test and Evaluation. He returned to RAAF Edinburgh as Commander Air Warfare Centre in January 2021.
Air Commodore Bender holds a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (Honours), Master of Business Administration (Technology Management) and a Master of Strategic Studies obtained on posting to US Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama in 2008-09.
Air Commodore Bender and his wife Kelly have two daughters, Emily and Sarah, and he enjoys most sports and keeping fit through running, cycling and rowing.
Commander Emma McDonald-Kerr
Commander Emma McDonald-Kerr was born in Gisborne, Victoria, and joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1999, as a Midshipman at the Australian Defence Force Academy. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 2001, majoring in Oceanography and Politics.
Upon graduation she commenced Maritime Warfare Officer professional training, and in 2004 was awarded her Bridge Warfare Certificate in HMAS Success. Following a period as an Officer of the Watch in Success, she was posted as the decommissioning Navigator in HMAS Launceston (II). After decommissioning, she joined a cross-functional team in the Defence Community Organisation Darwin, supporting ADF members and their families, often in times of crisis.
In 2009, she posted to the Defence Force Recruiting Centre in Melbourne, before commencing a land-based deployment to Timor-Leste in 2012. After returning from operations she managed the Navy’s overseas recruitment program, and subsequently accepted dual specialisation as a Maritime Warfare and Management Executive Officer (human resource management).
In 2013, she deployed as the Military Assistant to the Commander of Combined Task Force 150, responsible for maritime security and counter terrorism operations in the Middle East and Indian Ocean region. Back in Australia she undertook a workforce planning role, before returning to sea as the Executive/Boarding Officer in Cape Class Patrol Boats Cape Byron and Cape Inscription.
Her selection as the Staff Officer to the Chief of the Defence Force in late 2017, provided a unique opportunity to work for the ADF’s most senior military officer. After this role she studied at the Australian War College, before her appointment as the Deputy Director Navy Workforce Requirements Planning. In December 2021, Commander McDonald-Kerr will assume command of Navy Headquarters – South Australia.
Commander McDonald-Kerr’s career highlights include navigating a ship through the busy Singapore Strait, and working alongside colleagues from allied and partner militaries. She has a Master of Business from the University of New South Wales and a Master of Military and Defence Studies from the Australian National University. In her spare time she enjoys planning her next travel adventure, spending time with family, friends and her greyhound, Charlie, and exploring the great outdoors.
LTCOL Roland Spackman
Lieutenant Colonel Roland Spackman, RAINF is a graduate of the Australian Defence Force Academy, the Royal Military College, Duntroon, and the Australian Command and Staff College (Joint). On commissioning from the Royal Military College, Duntroon in 2004, LTCOL Spackman was allocated the Royal Australian Infantry Corps and posted to the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (Parachute). LTCOL Spackman is a broadly experienced infantry officer, having served in Parachute, Standard, and now Mechanized Infantry Battalions as well as filling staff and training appointments within the Australian, British, and United States Armies.
LTCOL Spackman served as a rifle platoon commander with the Ready Battle Group on Operation ANODE in the Solomon Islands in 2006 and served on Operation SLIPPER in Afghanistan in 2009 with the Election Task Force. In 2014 he was the Officer Commanding Rifle Company Butterworth Rotation 105 in Malaysia, and in 2017 was the Chief of Staff for Joint Task Force 661 during Operation QUEENSLAND ASSIST in the wake of Cyclone Debbie. Most recently he was seconded to Home Affairs to assist their planners develop the Department’s response to COVID 19.
LTCOL Spackman’s academic achievements include a Bachelor of Arts (major in English with minors in English and Indonesian) from University Campus of UNSW at ADFA and a Masters Degree with Distinction in Defence and Strategic Studies from the Australian National University.
LTCOL Spackman and his partner enjoy spending their time travelling, listening to music, skiing, eating well and generally enjoying the great outdoors.