Almost 30,000kms travelled, 36 hours in flying time and a desire to help is what it took a small crew of Australian Defence Force personnel to assist Australia’s regional partners during a critical time of need.

A team of eight crew members from No. 36 Squadron delivered humanitarian assistance earlier this month, to India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, each country battling to contain growing outbreaks of COVID-19.

Loading an Air Force C-17A Globemaster III with a large oxygen tank, humanitarian stores and personal protective equipment at Perth International Airport, the small team worked tirelessly to ensure the aircraft succeeded in its mission.

Loadmaster Flight Sergeant Benny Russell said putting training into real-world practice during a global pandemic showed the ADF’s depth within its people and capabilities.

“We loaded around 24 tons of HADR stores onto the C-17, which included the first oxygen tank I have ever had to deliver; all within COVID-19 safety practices,” he said.

“Being able to be a part of something that can help out our regional neighbours in a time of need is really rewarding. 

“In times like this, it’s important to support your friends and neighbours; it is everyone’s responsibility to do their part during this pandemic – we are lucky in the ADF to be able to provide that support.”

The ADF is supporting the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through a whole-of-Government effort to assist India, Nepal and Sri Lanka to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in their respective countries by delivering critical humanitarian supplies.

Aircraft Captain, Flight Lieutenant Alex Cavanagh, said the mission would not have been possible without his crew’s dedication to the task.

“Flying into these three countries is no easy feat. It takes the whole team to be able to do their jobs with the utmost professionalism to be able to execute each leg of this mission,” he said.

“To be able to render support to India, Nepal and Sri Lanka in this concerning time is something I won’t forget.

“This mission is special to me because it is my first international tasking as a Captain at 36 Squadron. I’m happy we can help.”

Defence remains committed to supporting the international community in combatting the spread of COVID-19.

ADF people are the key to our capability to continue to operate effectively in the COVID-19 environment to assist our friend and neighbours in the region.

Imagery is available on the Defence image gallery.