A new Anzac alliance has been formed on operations in the Middle East Region (MER), with two C-130 Hercules detachments integrating together under one Task Group.
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) C-130H Task Unit has joined the RAAF C-130J Task Unit under JTF633 Air Mobility Task Group (AMTG) to fly personnel and equipment around the MER supporting ADF Operations OKRA, ACCORDION and HIGHROAD and New Zealand's Operation TEAL.
The two detachments integrated under the control of the AMTG Commander when the New Zealand detachment arrived in the MER in early June with their C-130H aircraft.
Australia's C-130J detachment is commanded by SQNDLR Scott Harris and is comprised of 33 personnel from 37SQN operating on a rotational basis.
"The current rotation began in May, with a stagger to the rotation dates between personnel in order to maintain the corporate knowledge at an appropriate level within the detachment," SQNLDR Harris said.
"Since records have been maintained in the MER, the C-130Js have transported approximately 263,000 passengers and 112.3 million pounds (51 million kilograms) of cargo up until 15 August this year."
One of the highlights for SQNLDR Harris so far on this deployment was witnessing the professional development of his junior C-130J aircrew members whilst on operations.
"A new aircrew training system was introduced at 285SQN for C-130J loadmaster and pilot initial qualification course, under which the students are exposed to a broad range of skill sets," SQNLDR Harris said.
"Responsibility is then handed to 37SQN to develop student knowledge and proficiency, which tends to be par for the course when deploying those members to the MER."
A core concept of the new training approach is a co-pilot is trained as an aircraft captain from day one.
"They are trained to operate from both seats, and they’ve been afforded the opportunity to exercise these skills whilst in the MER.
"It’s been pleasing to see our junior crews stepping up to the plate.”
The other highlight for the Australians was working with their New Zealand colleagues on operations.
"It's been gratifying working closely with the Kiwis in the MER especially considering we've had the opportunity to work with them on previous exercises and operations, most recently with a number of the current NZDF task unit members on Red Flag Alaska 2015," SQNLDR Harris said.
"Every friendly face is a welcome addition to the team especially when you’re operating on the other side of the world away from your usual support networks.
"The Australian and New Zealand personnel working in the mission planning and operations cell have integrated particularly well to support each others missions, and we’ve been sharing aviation safety reports which are relevant to both task units.
"It's been great working with the Kiwis, they maintain very high professional standards and the inter-operability between our task units and between the squadrons in general has been seamless and continues at a high level."
Commander of the NZDF Task Unit SQNLDR Rhys Evans said his 32 person team was working hard to support New Zealand and Australian personnel on the ground in the MER.
"We are predominantly from 40SQN in New Zealand and have brought with us a team of people, who can independently deploy and operate. Here in the MER they have seamlessly integrated into the AMTG structure." SQNLDR Evans said.
"So far as at mid-August we've flown 28 missions and 200 flight hours, transporting more than 1000 passengers and carrying more than 500,000 pounds of freight.
"We've also achieved a near 100 per cent aircraft serviceability rate, which is nearly unheard of for the H model C-130. It's a credit to our maintainers and those people in our squadron at home who planned this mission."
SQNLDR Evans said it was great to see his team achieve their mission, using an older aircraft.
"There's some friendly rivalry between the Kiwis and the Aussies operating the H model and the J model Hercules, but we’re all here working together supporting the MER mission. It’s great to work alongside the Australian C-130 crews," he said.
"We are very familiar working with them - we also operate together on exercises such as Talisman Sabre and Red Flag and since we’ve been here we've appreciated how they've fully embraced us into the AMTG unit."
Commander of the Air Mobility Task Group, WGCDR Trigge was keen to point out the strength of the Anzac integration.
“The ADF has chosen to return one of the two C-130Js for the remainder of the Kiwi C-130H deployment. I think this demonstrates our faith in the Anzac alliance in AMTG,” WGCDR Trigge said.
“The personnel supporting and flying both aircraft are doing an outstanding job providing air transport in the MER.”
Article written by WO2 Andrew Hetherington