Stand out team

Royal Australian Air Force Medical Officer Flight Lieutenant Melanie Smyth (left) and Medical Assistant, Leading Aircraftwoman Kate Fox assess a patient during Exercise Red Flag 19-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, USA.

In support of warfare elements, airbase operations stepped up to ensure the smooth and safe conduct of Exercise Red Flag Nellis. 

The airbase operations team included communications, security, medical and administrative personnel.

No. 1 Combat Communications Squadron (1CCS) provided information and radio systems 24-hour support to facilitate national command and control, intelligence, maintenance and administration functions. 

The 13-person team benefited from Red Flag for their own development, as it emulated deploying to a coalition-forward operating base and having to work with the local United States Air Force (USAF) personnel to establish our network. 

Flight Lieutenant Melanie Smyth and Leading Aircraftwoman Kate Fox, of No. 2 Expeditionary Health Squadron, provided medical support to personnel deployed to Nellis Air Force Base, primary healthcare, facilitated emergency care and conducted aviation medical officer duties for Australian aircrew. 

Flight Lieutenant Smyth said the exercise was interesting and challenging for the small medical team. “There was great teamwork between us and the US and UK medical personnel, and working in the US facilities has been fantastic,” Flight Lieutenant Smyth said. 

“We’ve also had to employ public health care due to an outbreak of influenza in one of the other detachments – had it gone through the Australian contingent, it could have had the potential to stop the exercise for us.” 

Flight Lieutenant Smyth was also able to use her expertise in a civilian setting, saving a young girl from choking at a local shopping centre. 

“It was my first time responding in an emergency situation, so it was good to see that I can use my training to go into autopilot and save someone.” 

Walking into a USAF gym during an air combat exercise, the last person you would expect to see would be an Australian PTI. 

Sergeant Anthony Baker, posted to Air Combat Group, provided physical care for pilots before and after long missions in the cockpit. 

“My role was strength and conditioning, and load management in support of aircrew, to help reduce the risk of injury and also manage fatigue,” Sergeant Baker said. 

“It was a good experience being embedded with an aircrew unit and understanding what their daily role is on an exercise of this scale. 

“This was my first overseas deployment; it was great having to focus on one job for a month and it really helped build relationships and rapport with the aircrew.” 

Closer to the airfield, Flying Officer Ellen Brunskill put her skills to use as the Security Liaison Officer, working as a conduit between Australia’s security needs and those of the USAF. 

“My job here was to ensure the protection of our air assets on the ground at Nellis, so I was constantly in contact with my USAF counterpart,” she said. 

“A happy side benefit was the interaction I had with Royal Air Force (RAF) security forces. 

“We know we work well with US forces, so it was good to have contact with RAF to further broaden our relationship with them.” 

The Director of Operations for Security Forces at Nellis AFB, Captain Scott Hlavin, said communication was often a challenge, but for this Red Flag the three forces had worked well together. 

“Our processes had lined-up well, and the Australian and British forces were proactive in engaging us,” he said. 

“It was great getting to know the other forces, and showing each other that we aren’t that different.” 

Flight Lieutenant Wayne Edwards, RAF Detachment Security Officer, said it was important that the three forces had trained together. 

“We were training for the big fight, and this was the biggest contingent we’ve had here, so it was beneficial for us to be working so closely with the Australian and US forces,” he said. 

“The great information flow was definitely a highlight.”