They may be a small team of Air Force plant operators and tradies but No. 65 Squadron’s capability is as mighty as the equipment they operate.
CAPTION: Bulldozer operator Leading Aircraftswoman Natasha Radford uses a JD 850J bulldozer to build a fire containment line at Bando Forest near Tumut to help protect remaining commercial timber essential to the economic viability of the region. Photo by Major Cameron Jamieson.
RELATED STORIES: Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20
As the Air Force’s airbase recovery function, No. 65 Squadron’s personnel are experienced in maintaining, constructing and recovering airbase infrastructure such as landing strips, building pads and clearing greenfield sites.
They also have the ability to repair structures and establish power and water connections.
As part of Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20, the squadron will work alongside the Army’s 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment to construct a 70km fire break near Tumut in the Riverina region of New South Wales in the north-west foothills of the Snowy Mountains.
Travelling down the Hume Highway with the first of the plant equipment to be transported to Tumut, works supervisor Corporal Ryan McMurtrie reflected on the opportunity to be a part of Operation Bushfire Assist over the coming days and potentially weeks.
“Our unit is proud to be assisting the affected communities in the Tumut area” he said.
“We’re proud to support and be working alongside emergency services personnel, especially exhausted NSW Rural Fire Service volunteer firefighters.
“Our team trains to operate in difficult environments to help build and maintain infrastructure, including providing power, water, shelter and road access.
“We’re privileged to be playing an integral part in protecting and rebuilding these communities.”
Part of the Air Force’s Combat Support Group, No. 65 Squadron is based at RAAF Base Richmond in Sydney, with elements in Orchard Hills and RAAF Base Townsville, Queensland.
The squadron’s Airbase Recovery Team and Blade Teams consist of plant operators, tradespersons (primarily electricians, plumbers and carpenters) and a works supervisor.
They will be operating a dozer, loader, grader and chainsaws to construct the fire break near Tumut in the hope that it will act as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of any bushfires that threaten the area.