Defence Air Transport Team Completes Middle East Mission
Air Vice-Marshal Tony Davies, the Chief of Air Force, welcomes home members of the New Zealand Defence Force air transport team that left in June to support coalition operations in the Middle East.
15 December 2016
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) air transport team that left in June to support coalition operations in the Middle East returned this afternoon from a successful six-month mission.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft and a 32-member detachment clocked about 640 flying hours on 82 missions to Iraq and Afghanistan, which is equivalent to completing nine round-the-world trips. The air transport team transported 771 tonnes of vital supplies and about 3200 military personnel whilst operating as part of an Australian Defence Force (ADF) air mobility task group.
“Our team provided strategic air support to coalition operations. Their performance was extraordinary, given the demanding conditions they operated in,” Major General (MAJGEN) Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said.
MAJGEN Gall said the team flew almost every single mission assigned to them by the ADF task group.
“New Zealand has had a longstanding commitment in the Middle East. With this deployment, we were doing our fair share towards the air support required for various operations that seek to maintain peace and stability in the region,” he said.
Squadron Leader (SQNLDR) Blair Oldershaw, the commander of the Task Unit, said the team maintained a high operational tempo throughout their mission.
He said their rate of effort of about 85 flying hours per month was double that of a similar aircraft in the fleet conducting military air operations throughout New Zealand and overseas.
“The team exceeded all expectations. The mission’s success rate was over 96 per cent, which is phenomenal given the challenging environment in the Middle East. It is a real tribute to our maintenance and support staff that we were able to achieve this level of success,” SQNLDR Oldershaw said.
Night vision goggles were used during the mission since some of the airfields involved had no lighting or navigation aids.
The NZDF detachment included aircraft technicians, logistics specialists, maintenance personnel, and an Air Movements Load Team that worked as part of the Royal Australian Air Force’s Air Movements Unit to support coalition aircraft in the region.
“The strong camaraderie and our ability to work effectively and almost seamlessly with our Australian colleagues helped us achieve our mission. There was a sense of combined effort, which promoted mutual respect and a willingness to go the extra mile for each other and reflected the shared values between the two countries,” SQNLDR Oldershaw said.
Members of the detachment said searing temperatures that often exceeded 45 degrees Celsius posed the biggest challenge, particularly to the maintenance personnel who had to work outdoors.
“Everyone involved in the operation felt honoured to represent the NZDF and our country. For me personally, the opportunity to lead the team was an absolute privilege,” SQNLDR Oldershaw said.
Air Vice-Marshal Tony Davies, the Chief of Air Force, said the team’s outstanding performance spoke to their skills and training.
“Our people are well-trained, professional and highly committed. They can definitely hold their own in a coalition environment, and they did the hard yards to ensure the mission is carried out successfully.”
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