Home' Advance In Review : Advance in Review August 2017 Contents Federation Star recipient –
Flight Lieutenant Stephen Bate
In an age when the average length of time
a new Airman stays in the employment of
defence is between four and six years, it is
becoming less common to see members
wearing a Defence Long Service Medal
(DLSM) signifying 15 years of service. A
quick glance at Air Force Band on parade
will show a higher than average number of
DSLM’s being worn by band members with
some including bars indicating 20 years
or more of service (which speaks volumes
towards how the band members value their
jobs in defence!). However, a closer look
at the chest of one of our members will
show an award that is exceptionally rare for
anyone in the Australian Defence Force. On
13 February 2017, Air Commodore Geoffrey
Harland, Commander Air Force Training
Group, awarded the Federation Star to
Flight Lieutenant Stephen Bate for 40 years
of service in the Australian Defence Force.
Flight Lieutenant Bate enlisted in the
Air Force on 27 September 1976 (‘when
men were made of steel and planes were
made of wood,’ as he likes to say!), having
auditioned and accepted to play trombone
and euphonium. After completing initial
recruit training he was posted to No. 1
Regional Band at Richmond in NSW. Steve
remained in Richmond until 2008 when the
then Air Command Band and Central Band
amalgamated to form Air Force Band. One
thing was evident about the young, slim 17
year old with a full head of hair and positive
attitude and that was his inherent love of
music. Well, 40 years later, the body may
not be so slim and the hair and moustache
are definitely gone, but the dedicated family
man still has his positive attitude and
overwhelming love of music.
His music tastes are definitely on the
eclectic side! Jazz (Bob Florence), rock,
apocalyptica – heavy metal cello band...
(really!) rub shoulders with Beethoven,
Mahler, 20th Century British music,
Grainger and Copland, just to name a few.
One of his all time favourite tunes is a Pat
Metheny piece called First Circle which the
Sydney Air Command Big Band regularly
performed. You always know when Steve is
coming down the halls of the band room -
long before he knocks on the door, you can
hear him ‘vocally doodling’ as he walks. I am
convinced that this ‘tune’ is an improvisation
on a long forgotten melody that lodged itself
in his brain from when he first joined!
I first met ‘Corporal’ Steve Bate when
I joined in 1984 and was there while he
progressed through the ranks to reach
Warrant Officer in a relatively short 24
years. During that time, he was asked to
‘fill in’ on an important missing voice in Air
Command Band, the bassoon, and thus
preceded to learn and perform on that
instrument for many years. Bassoon is
probably the hardest instrument to learn
from scratch, especially for a brass player!
He also served for many years in the role
of drum major. A few years after moving to
Melbourne as a member of Air Force Band,
Steve applied for and accepted a position
on the Band Officer course at the Defence
Force School of Music and was promoted to
Flight Lieutenant. Once he had graduated
from this demanding course he spent 18
months within the Defence Community
Organisation before returning to the band
in 2015 as the Administration Officer and
Deputy Music Director.
In a 40 year period, there are bound to be
a lot of highlights so I asked Steve what
were the best of the highlights. When I
approached him, he replied, “a number
of significant events and jobs stick out for
me in the time I have served. Deployments
to Timor and Iraq/Afghanistan and Dawn
Services at Gallipoli are definitely on the
LM: How did you feel about travelling to
Turkey to play for your first Anzac service
AK: In contrast to most other military
personnel, I have never really
commemorated Anzac Day. This was my first
Dawn Service and to get the opportunity to
do this in Turkey was an amazing experience
that I will remember for the rest of my life.
I was honoured to go and I cannot wait to
take part in the next overseas Anzac Day
LM: In your short time in the Air Force so
far, can you recount some highlights?
AK: Having a C17 Globemaster fly over me
was pretty special. This year definitely
held some highlights - such as playing for
international military leaders at the Eureka
Tower and being in Gallipoli to play for the
Anzac Day Dawn Service.
LM: Thanks Aaron and all the best with your
time in the band.
Liam Murphy (LM): Joining the band at
the same time as Aaron is Robert Scott.
Welcome to the band Rob, can you start by
telling us where you grew up?
Robert Scott (RS): I grew up on a small
beef farm which has been in the family for
roughly a century, located on the outskirts
of Lakes Entrance, Victoria.
LM: How did you find recruit training?
RS: Unlike some others, I thoroughly enjoyed
the whole experience; many of the activities
and tasks overlapped with my hobbies such
as shooting, camping, and physical training.
Most of my fellow course mates became
stressed over meeting deadlines or passing
assessments, however I went through the
three months with the same approach I have
in life in general: Have fun and enjoy every
moment! I don’t remember a day or activity
that I didn’t enjoy. I suspect it was because
of this that I received the Airmanship award,
bestowed upon one recruit from each
graduating flight who best reflected the
RAAF values of respect, excellence, agility,
dedication, integrity, and teamwork.
LM: What made you want to join Air Force
RS: Since I was eight years old, all I ever
wanted to do was to play music for the rest
of my life and ideally make a career out of
it. Even after eight months in the band, I still
can’t believe how lucky I am getting paid to
practice and perform!
LM: How has your life and routine changed
since joining the Air Force?
RS: Now that I travel so often, I’ve found
myself with lots of spare time on buses
and planes. I have found this is a great
opportunity to make musical arrangements
for the Air Force Band clarinet quartet.
Before I enlisted, I had not stopped studying
since kindergarten so finally being able to
spend my down time with friends and family
rather than studying and writing essays is
amazing. I now have more time to pursue
new hobbies and enjoy them rather than
feeling guilty for not studying.
LM: Could you tell us something about your
pre-Air Force musical experience?
RS: I began playing recorder at the age of
five, learning from my father who also plays
recorder and piano. I mostly played at local
churches accompanied by my brother on
piano. Later on, after hearing one of my
mum’s Acker Bilk cd’s, I decided to learn
the clarinet. In grade six, I was invited to
play 1st clarinet with the local high school
band. While at high school, I also picked up
the bass clarinet, violin, and saxophone.
During secondary school I also formed a
jazz quartet with my brother on drum kit.
I completed a Bachelor of Music with 1st
class Honours at the Australian National
University in Canberra in 2014. During this
time, I also taught clarinet, bass clarinet
and saxophone to around 30 students per
week. In 2012 I successfully auditioned for
the Canberra Symphony, but left that job to
study in Versailles with Philippe Cuper, who
is the principal clarinettist with the Paris
National Opera. It was in Versailles that
I heard that a position was available with
Air Force Band so I decided to apply and
returned home to audition.
Air Commodore Geoff Harland presenting the Federation Star to Flight Lieutenant Stephen Bate.
LM: In your short time in the RAAF so far,
can you recount some highlights?
RS: My highlight reel would have to include
playing at the Townsville Airshow where
we played in the Freedom of Entry Parade,
performed twice at the Townsville Airshow,
and even managed to fit in a trip to Magnetic
Island. Performing for the Anzac Day
Dawn Service at Gallipoli this year was the
greatest privilege to date. To not just attend
the ceremony, but to actually contribute to it,
leading the clarinet section on 1st clarinet,
and to represent my country in uniform was
Leading Aircraftman Liam Murphy
list. I took part in Longlook, an exchange
with the Royal Air Force in England, which
has particularly fond memories for me and
I met some wonderful people during that
time. Lots of concerts were memorable but
especially an ABC Live Broadcast in 2004
recorded at Newcastle Conservatorium is
probably my favourite concert as a performer
so far. The concert that I conducted at the
Melbourne Town Hall in 2015 will always
hold special memories. There are many
other highlights, but those are up there as
significant to me.”
There are very few serving members (or ex-
members for that matter) in defence who
have reached 40 years of service and been
awarded the Federation Star. On a personal
note, it has been an honour to have served
with Flight Lieutenant Bate during this time
and I can only wish him the very best for
his remaining time in defence and into his
retirement in July 2017.
Warrant Officer Rod Ellem
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