In-Conversation with WOFF-AF

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This article is part of the Propel Her – Defence Women’s Leadership Series.

Airpowerment: Athletes of air and space power; mentally, physically and ethically fit

I am a firm believer in empowering others to thrive in their careers, voice their ideas for improvement, and to unapologetically be their own biggest supporter. I personally like to refer to this as Airpowerment.

With the release of the new Defence Values – Service, Courage, Respect, Integrity and Excellence – as well as the Air Force Strategy 2020, we have a lot to absorb and reflect upon in these challenging times. Behind us are the devastating bushfires and floods; and currently our lives are impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Our future will inevitably have large-scale weather events, heightened political tensions, and complex future threats to our national security, which will all place increased stress and uncertainty in our daily lives.

It is timely that I was afforded an opportunity to interview our Warrant Officer of the Air Force – Warrant Officer Fiona Grasby,​ to gain a valuable insight to her vision of the Air Force and the evolution of its people. For those lucky enough to have met WOFF-AF Grasby, it is immediately clear that she is sincere, passionate, and a tireless advocate of the people she represents. She welcomes an open line of respectful discussion between herself and leaders at every level. When discussing a variety of topics including culture and values, I noted WOFF-AF Grasby used words such as “our” and “we”. She asked me “What do you see our culture being in 5-10 years?” and I mused that culture takes time, dedication and the right people to change it. WOFF-AF Grasby believes it is all about choice and she chooses to see the positive in all aspects of the Air Force and its members.

WOFF-AF Grasby’s theory on leadership style is simple, effective and should ring true for most, if not all, of today’s serving members. She refers to Air Force members as her ‘Athletes of air and space power’ and believes that being mentally, physically and ethically fit are the key ingredients to this. She puts an emphasis on being ‘ethically fit’, a term I have thought a lot about once I had first heard it.

If you are fortunate to meet our Warrant Officer of the Air Force Fiona Grasby in person, you will likely feel a sense of Airpowerment​ – and I’m honoured to share the interview I conducted with her with you below:

Was there a pivotal event or influential person that shaped your career path to becoming


My mentor has been my strength in making me believe that I could be WOFF-AF because he taught me very early in my career (when I was an LACW), to embrace curiosity, adventure, passion and just when you think you have dreamt as big as you can, dream bigger. From that point forward I have always embraced the opportunities that the Air Force has provided and continued to ‘dream bigger.’ I have never consciously adapted my leadership style in different roles, I have just been me and I espouse that leadership qualities are not defined by rank or position, but by the person that you are and to be an efficient and effective leader, first of all you need to be a really good human.

Noting your advocacy of Plan Jericho, what advice do you have for Air Force members with great ideas that can potentially evolve their workplace or the organisation? 

I encourage the SNCO to harvest the strong and intuitive junior members to put their ideas directly through to the Jericho team. In the very near future you will see the release of the new Air Force Strategy (AFSTRAT) – super exciting time which I can’t wait to get your feedback on! (Editor’s note: The AFSTRAT was released 25 Sep 20 and is accessible on the DPN​).

What is your key piece of advice to give Recruit Grasby if you could travel back in time? 

Just keep being your authentic self, embrace every opportunity that you are blessed to be presented with, manage your energy and not your time. Look after and support your team and mates genuinely and empathetically, and they will look after you. I will sum up by saying that I have never learnt anything the hard way; it is all about choice and I chose to see the positive in every situation – it’s a learnt skill that you should start working on today.​         

Since becoming WOFF-AF, what questions do you enjoy asking the airmen and airwomen you lead?

I enjoy hearing the frank and fearless answers to tough questions: “What is Air Force doing right?” and “What else can we do more to support you, your team, and your family?”

Thank you for your time Ma’am, it’s greatly appreciated!

About the contributors:

Corporal Jaci Nelson joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 2012 into Air Movements. She is currently posted to Movements Standards 295 Squadron, Brisbane, and has extensive operational experience, both internationally and domestically. Corporal Nelson is an advocate for career and professional development opportunities for junior ranks. She enjoys hiking, crime novels, and playing tennis. 

Warrant Officer of the Air Force Fiona Grasby ​has a long career in the Air Force, initially joining as a Supplier before transferring to Security Police (specialising in Counterintelligence and Special Operations), and Executive Warrant Officer in 2016. She has deployed on multiple operations across the Middle East and Pacific regions, with a ​ highlight being the completion of the Regional Command South Female Engagement Team training at Kandahar Airfield and ensuring commitment in supporting the security processing for local Afghan women and children.