Gloucester native, Coen Durbridge knew from a young age that he wanted a career in aviation and after a grueling four years of defence force training, he's flying toward his childhood dream.
The 22-year-old graduated from Gloucester High School in 2016 before heading off to the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA). Coen comes from a family-line of military men with both his grandfathers, Frank Munro and Alan Durbidge, serving in World War II and his great uncle serving in the Vietnam War.
"I had an interest in joining the defence force as a young boy but I only seriously knew at a later stage in high school," Coen said.
In 2015, he had the chance to attend an aviation careers expo in Tamworth, thanks to the support of the Rotary Club of Gloucester. It was there that his interest in aviation shifted from fixed wing to helicopters.
When he found out that the ADFA could offer him a path toward aviation, as well as university degree, he was sold.
"My journey was relatively seamless. I began the process at the beginning of 2016 with my Your Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) session," he explained.
He was required to undergo additional testing which he completed by October that year.
"I then received my letter of offer in December and was off to ADFA for Year One Familiarisation Training just a few weeks later in late January (2017)."
Coen completed a bachelor of arts degree with major in English and history in 2019 before taking on an additional year at Royal Military College (RMC) - Duntroon.
His military training has been intense and in depth, covering off on things like single service training, leadership training, character and ethics and tactical planning at a platoon level.
In 2020, he graduated from RMC as Lieutenant into the Australia Army Aviation Corps (AAAvn).
When it was all said and done, Coen got the offer he was hoping for. An opportunity to learn how to fly helicopters for the Australian Army.
"Being on the path to realising my dream is relieving and inspiring at the same time," Coen said.
"Relieving in the sense that the four years of training I've currently completed was significantly challenging at points and had to work hard in order to get the current opportunity I have.
"Inspiring in the sense that I still have a significant amount to learn and practice in order to successfully graduate and secure (for want of a better word) my place in the Australian Army Aviation Corps."
Coen is currently undertaking the Basic Pilots Course at 1 FTS (Flying Training School) learning to fly the fixed wing PC-21 aircraft. After he graduates in about three months, he'll move onto Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS) in Nowra to start flying helicopters.
As for what happens once he's finished.
"I just want to fly," Coen said.