The New Zealand Defence Force air transport team that left in June to support coalition operations in the Middle East returned this afternoon from a successful six-month mission.
CAPTION: Royal New Zealand Air Force Sergeant Dave Wood an Air Loadmaster carries out start up procedures of the C- 130 prior to a task on OP TEAL.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft and a 32-member detachment clocked up about 640 flying hours on 82 missions to Iraq and Afghanistan, which is equivalent to completing nine round-the-world trips.
The air transport team transported 771 tonnes of vital supplies and about 3200 military personnel while operating as part of an Australian Defence Force air mobility task group.
Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said the New Zealand team provided strategic air support to coalition operations.
“Their performance was extraordinary, given the demanding conditions they operated in,” Major General Gall said.
“The team flew almost every single mission assigned to them by the ADF task group.
“New Zealand has had a longstanding commitment in the Middle East.
“With this deployment, we were doing our fair share towards the air support required for various operations that seek to maintain peace and stability in the region,” he said.
Squadron Leader Blair Oldershaw, the commander of the task unit, said the team maintained a high operational tempo throughout their mission.
He said their rate of effort of about 85 flying hours per month was double that of a similar aircraft in the fleet conducting military air operations throughout New Zealand and overseas.
“The team exceeded all expectations,” he said.
“The mission’s success rate was over 96 per cent, which is phenomenal given the challenging environment in the Middle East.
“It is a real tribute to our maintenance and support staff that we were able to achieve this level of success.”
Night vision goggles were used during the mission since some of the airfields involved had no lighting or navigation aids.
The NZDF detachment included aircraft technicians, logistics specialists, maintenance personnel, and an air-movements load team that worked as part of the Royal Australian Air Force’s Air Movements Unit to support coalition aircraft in the region.
Squadron Leader Oldershaw said the strong camaraderie and the team’s ability to work effectively and almost seamlessly with their Australian colleagues helped them achieve their mission.
“There was a sense of combined effort, which promoted mutual respect and a willingness to go the extra mile for each other and reflected the shared values between the two countries,” he said.
Members of the detachment said searing temperatures, which often exceeded 45 degrees Celsius posed the biggest challenge, particularly to the maintenance personnel who had to work outdoors.
“Everyone involved in the operation felt honoured to represent the NZDF and our country,” Squadron Leader Oldershaw said.
“For me personally, the opportunity to lead the team was an absolute privilege.”
Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Tony Davies said the team’s outstanding performance spoke to their skills and training.
“Our people are well-trained, professional and highly committed,” he said.
“They can definitely hold their own in a coalition environment, and they did the hard yards to ensure the mission was carried out successfully.”