The Royal Australian Air Force’s No. 35 Squadron has begun a sister squadron arrangement with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force’s (PNGDF) Air Training Wing.
CAPTION: Captain Randall Hepota of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force is presented with flying clothing during his visit to No. 35 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley by Squadron Leader Robert Crawford. Story by Flight Lieutenant Clarice Hurren. Photo by Sergeant Peter Borys.
On the final leg of his international exchange, Captain Randall Hepota, from the PNGDF Air Element, visited No. 35 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley.
Kicking off the sister squadron (‘susa skwadron’ in Tok Pisin) arrangement with the PNGDF Air Training Wing, Captain Hepota experienced a C-27J Spartan flight and met with personnel capability specialist Aircraftwoman Brodee Doubtfire, who will be travelling to PNG for three months as part of the reciprocal Defence Cooperation Program in August.
C Flight Commander No. 35 Squadron Squadron Leader Robert Crawford said the sister squadron arrangement was mutually beneficial, setting the foundations for joint training opportunities and integrated air capability.
“Exposure to new ways of thinking and sharing skills with the PNGDF is invaluable for all of us at No. 35 Squadron,” Squadron Leader Crawford said.
“We look forward to helping our closest neighbour rebuild their sovereign aviation capability and safety systems.
“In turn, the PNGDF will help us in our mountainous flying training, airfield facility access and other training exercises in PNG, working side-by-side on future joint humanitarian and disaster relief operations.
“It’s a two-sided coin; an opportunity for both the PNGDF Air Transport Wing and RAAF to learn from each other, strengthening our relationship.”
Later this year, the PNGDF Air Transport Wing will begin flying the PAC 750XL aircraft, with the help of RAAF flying instructor Wing Commander Tim Shaw and his team, working as part of the Defence Cooperation Program based in PNG.
Under the sister squadron arrangement, No. 35 Squadron members will get a unique opportunity to help augment PNGDF aviation training, mentoring and courseware development.
“This will be a great opportunity to learn about their unique culture and language,” Squadron Leader Crawford said.
“The enduring PNG three-month exchange positions will be offered with first preference to No. 35 Squadron before being opened up to wider Air Force, making this arrangement something all of us can support and be a part of.”
Flying clothing was also shared with Caption Hepota by No. 35 Squadron, including flying suits, gloves and jackets for PNGDF susa skwadron aircrew to help kickstart the PNGDF Air Element flying training.
Aircraftwoman Doubtfire said she was fortunate to be deployed to Papua New Guinea and was thankful to be selected for the first rotation of the people capability specialist position.
“I’ll be assisting the PNGDF with administration and supporting other ADF members who are already in-country,” Aircraftwoman Doubfire said.
“This experience will be incredible and I’m sure will inform the rest of my career in Air Force.
“I’m very much looking forward to meeting the rest of the team in PNG and strengthening our partnership.”