From the pool deck to the ship deck for Able Seaman
A JOB minding swimmers at the Oakey Army Aviation Base pool started Geoffrey Hayes' decade-long journey to Middle Eastern waters.
Able Seaman Hayes grew up on his parent's Lockyer Valley farm, attending Grantham State School before high school at St Mary's College in Toowoomba.
The 28-year-old took on life guard duties at Oakey after graduating, happy to be around the army helicopter technicians he wanted to become.
A chance meeting with navy aircraft technicians completing reserve service at the base inspired him to apply to both the army and the navy.
The navy got back to him first.
"I've seen most of Australia doing exercises with the navy," AB Hayes said.
The married father-of-one was posted to HMAS Toowoomba last year.
His Middle East deployment began on December 28 last year, sailing away from his wife Natalie and their 18-month-old son Max.
Four months have passed since he was last with them and two more will pass before they meet again.
Maintaining the ship's S-70 B-2 Sea Hawk helicopter has filled his days.
"It's quite disconnecting.
"They have got their lives going on back at home.
"That's their world; swimming lessons, picnics and going to see grandma.
"My world is obviously very different.
"You can't communicate what you are doing."
Keeping in touch is done through Skype or an instant messaging app.
"Obviously my son is growing up every day and I don't really get to see it.
"He's learning all of these new words and talking.
"Your life there (home) pauses when you leave, but theirs doesn't.
He is looking forward to heading home, but not only to see his family.
"I'll be happiest when we are leaving the zone; we have had no incidences with the aircraft, everyone is safe and the job is done."