By Eamon Hamilton
Excellence within the Air Mobility Group (AMG) community was recognised with the presentation of its annual Pathfinder Awards in September this year.
No. 35 Squadron was awarded Squadron of the Year, with Flight Lieutenant Peter Lambert from No. 34 Squadron awarded Aircrew Member of the Year for his efforts in bringing the Falcon 7x aircraft into service.
Corporal Scott Hughes with No. 33 Squadron was awarded the Ground Support Member of the Year award for his efforts in improving maintenance practices and readiness for the KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport fleet.
A Dining In Night at RAAF Base Richmond saw the Awards presented in an audience of the AMG community and members of the Pathfinder Association.
Over the last 20 years, a close association has formed between AMG and the Pathfinder Association, which commemorates the aircrew who led the Bomber Command raids on Occupied Europe during the Second World War.
Air Commodore Bill Kourelakos, Commander AMG, said the Awards allowed excellence to be recognised within the organisation.
“There’s a scale to AMG’s work that ranges from high-profile tasking of national importance, through to essential work that is often unrecognized or unreported,” Air Commodore Kourelakos said.
“The Pathfinder Awards recognise what it takes for us to safely get people, equipment and cargo to their destinations – whether it’s the individual leading within their workforce, to the collective effort of a squadron.”
No. 35 Squadron’s Pathfinder Award recognised its introduction of the C-27J Spartan to service, whilst at the same time supporting a range of Defence exercises and operations.
These have included Operations Solania in the South Pacific, and Resolute along Australia’s coastline.
Wing Commander Ben Poxon, Commanding Officer No. 35 Squadron, said these efforts away from home base came as the unit relocated from RAAF Base Richmond to purpose-built facilities at RAAF Base Amberley in late 2018 and early 2019.
“The relocation required moving about 521,000 pounds of cargo by road or air, and saw the squadron grow from 190 to 278 personnel,” Wing Commander Poxon said.
“We’re seeing 35 Squadron supporting tempo and operations that are common place across AMG in the South Pacific region, including disaster relief operations, and support to elections and diplomatic forums.”
Flight Lieutenant Peter Lambert’s efforts as Operational Transition Cell leader and lead Qualified Flying Instructor for the Falcon 7x Special Purpose Aircraft saw him awarded Aircrew Member of the Year.
In 2019, No. 34 Squadron introduced a fleet of three Falcon 7x aircraft as a replacement for the smaller CL604 Challengers flown by the unit at Defence Establishment Fairbairn in Canberra since 2002.
Flight Lieutenant Lambert displayed exceptional drive, forethought and technical mastery during the Falcon 7x’s introduction, according to Wing Commander Jason Pont, Commanding Officer of No. 34 Squadron.
“The five-person transition team was responsible for 34 squadron activities associated with the introduction to service,” Wing Commander Pont said.
“He was often required to provide specialist aircrew technical advice during the transition, beyond the scope of his role.”
“He established strong working relationships with external agencies, both within Air Force and Defence, and with Industry, and these relationships were pivotal to ensuring a smooth transition.”
Unable to accept his award due to deployment, Corporal Scott Hughes from No. 33 Squadron was recognised as Ground Support Member of the Year.
Warrant Officer Ricki Kiely, Warrant Officer – Engineering for No. 33 Squadron, said Corporal Hughes’ contribution to KC-30A maintenance had been deeply felt on operations.
“Corporal Hughes’ initiatives enabled the implementation of extended Before Flight servicing for the KC-30A from 24 up to 72 hours,” Warrant Officer Kiely said.
“That’s enabled No. 33 Squadron to provide greater KC-30 task availability; enhancing flexibility and reliability by allowing a KC-30A to be dynamically re-tasked whilst away from home on a mission.”
“As an example, this work enabled KC-30As to provide greater air logistics support in October 2018 to Defence when responding to a tsunami and earthquake in Indonesia.”
Corporal Hughes also developed a program for younger maintainers within the unit to share ideas for innovation within the workforce, which has spread to engagement within Air Combat Group and Logistics Branch – Air Force.
“This has come out of numerous other innovations that Corporal Hughes has either led or been engaged with, increasing the wider workforce’s knowledge and improving their capacity to conduct maintenance.”