A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) C-130 Hercules aircraft has completed its first set of sustainment flights to Afghanistan as part of an Australian-led air task group supporting coalition operations in the Middle East.
Squadron Leader Rhys Evans, Commander Task Unit, said a detachment of 34 personnel from the RNZAF has integrated with their Australian Defence Force (ADF) colleagues and “got straight down to work in typical Kiwi fashion”.
“Everyone is excited about doing the job they have trained to do and we are enjoying the operational tempo. It is great to finally get on the ground and in the air, over here.”
Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said the RNZAF personnel are working for the next six months as part of an ADF Joint Task Force that has been transporting freight and personnel in support of Australian, New Zealand, and coalition operations in the Middle East.
“New Zealand has had a longstanding commitment in the Middle East. With this deployment, we are doing our fair share towards the air support required for various operations that seek to maintain peace and stability in the region,” MAJGEN Gall said.
“We have seamlessly integrated with our counterparts and we are operating together as part of the Air Mobility Task Group. The first flights into Afghanistan were dynamic. The crew managed to achieve the tasks, displaying the NZDF’s agility and flexibility to adjust to changing situations at short notice,” SQNLDR Evans said.
He said the crew used the flying techniques they learnt and practised during recent training exercises in the United States.
“The training we undertook prior to being deployed on this mission has been invaluable and gave us a good understanding of coalition processes,” SQNLDR Evans said.
“The terrain is interesting and varies from seemingly endless deserts to snow-capped peaks. It’s different from our usual training grounds in New Zealand so it has been a great learning experience for the entire crew.”
The RNZAF Hercules and the detachment of personnel have been deployed to support coalition operations in the Middle East until December 2016.