The Mobile Airfield Engineering Team (MAET) from Air Mobility Control Centre didn’t expect to be assisting in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief when they arrived in Papua New Guinea on a training task, Monday 26 February.
The MAET were initially in Papua New Guinea on an aircraft training task to conduct a technical report providing ways to upgrade Telefomin airfield, a remote runway, as requested by the Papua New Guinean Government.
However, both the MAET and the C-130J Hercules in location were retasked to assist in responding to the earthquake.
“So because we were in the area, we ended up going into some of the communities affected by the earthquake with some initial aid and conducted some aerial reconnaissance of the area to see what was affected.”
“Now we have been allocated to the new aircraft and we are going to go in to assess the airfield to ensure the RAAF do not damage the airfield whilst delivering loads of humanitarian aid.”
“Airfield surveys are Airfield Engineers’ bread and butter, it is how we really contribute directly to capability so it is really good to be able to get out on a HA/DR mission and help the aircrew out by let them know what’s on the ground.”
The Moro airfield in the Southern Highlands Provence of Papua New Guinea is anticipated to become the logistical hub of the earthquake relief effort. Ensuring that the airfield can sustain RAAF aircraft operations is an important role in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
Sergeant Peter Jenkins said that it is rewarding to know that their hard work can have an effect on people who need it most.
“We are here to conduct surveys of the Airstrips that are going to be utilised to deliver the aid. Basically we just provide information to the pilots to let them know how heavy the aircraft can be for landing and how many aircraft operations the airfield can take.”
“It is good to know that what we do in the Air Force can help regional communities, especially up in the highlands. It makes you feel good to actually be able to help out when it is really needed.”
The Australian Defence Force is working closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs, as part of the Whole-of-Government efforts, to assess and if necessary respond to requests for support from Papua New Guinea.