When Michal Samoraj isn’t busy guarding $1 billion worth of Australian military aircraft in the Middle East he has an artist’s paintbrush in his hand.
The 27-year-old corporal has been painting his unit’s special concrete mural to brighten up the desert dust-coated beige camp at Australia’s main air operating base.
So far six Australian flying and four operational support squadrons have painted vertical concrete slabs called T-walls, because they’re shaped like upside-down Ts.
Samoraj, with mother and grandmother as artists, was the obvious man for the job.
“It runs in the blood,” he told AAP in the Middle East.
“I don’t do much art generally, only when duty calls.”
His unit – the Expeditionary Airbase Operations Unit – has a miscellaneous role on the base covering medical care, supplies such as fuel and food, camp maintenance and 24/7 security of aircraft.
His mural is a Vickers Vimy – a World War I era biplane bomber – piloted by a kangaroo wearing goggles.
It’s a tribute to Adelaide’s Smith brothers – Ross and Keith – who made a record-breaking 18,500 kilometre journey from Britain to Australia as part of a national competition launched by then prime minister Billy Hughes after the war.
The pair made the journey in 28 days – two days ahead of a deadline – winning the PS10,000 prize.
The second placed team took seven months.
The Smith plane carried the registration G-EAOU, which Ross joked stood for “God Elp All of Us”.
So far, Samoraj has spent 10 hours on the mural.
“It brightens the place up a bit and it looks a lot better than just dust and rocks… all of them have a unique flare,” he said.
The T-wall art murals are also an opportunity for puns.
“No comms, no bombs” – reads the No.1 combat communications squadron’s T-wall.
American military personnel have also shown artistic spirit on base.
A T-wall for an F-15 unit reads “Keep calm and strike on”.