The horsepower behind Joint Task Force 633’s firefighting capability in the Middle East has returned to Australia, signalling the end of a continuous ADF Fire, Crash and Rescue presence in the region.
Under the control of the only remaining RAAF firefighter in theatre, Flight Sergeant Cameron Gard, the Rosenbauer Panther Crash Tender was loaded onto an Australian C-17A Globemaster III on January 21.
Flight Sergeant Gard said the return of the Tender to Australia not only represented the retrograde of a piece of equipment deployed in 2009, but also drew the curtain on the significant contribution made by Air Force firefighting in the region since 2003.
“Over the past 17 years RAAF firefighters have worked with crews from Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands and New Zealand,” Flight Sergeant Gard said.
“This has not only provided lifelong friendships from around the world, but provided RAAF members with an array of different experiences and firefighting techniques that they have been able to share once back in Australia which benefits the entire mustering.”
RAAF firefighters have responded to a variety of events in the Middle East, from building fires and motor vehicle accidents, to hazard chemical incidents and emergencies involving coalition aircraft.
Many of these emergency responses involved the Panther and its fire suppression capabilities.
Flight Sergeant Gard said numerous firefighters who supported Australian operations in the Middle East had acknowledged their experiences on deployment as the pinnacle of their careers, with many of them returning into theatre multiple times throughout the ranks.
“It’s been an absolute privilege for all of the firefighters over the years to have been able to take our skills into an operational environment and support the ADF’s mission,” Flight Sergeant Gard said.
“It is a skill you do not want to have to use, but having our staff in location was reassurance for many which makes us all proud.”
While Joint Task Force 633’s sole firefighter will return to RAAF Base Williamtown, the Panther tender will be flown to RAAF Base Amberley.
Firefighting responsibilities at Camp Baird will continue in a non-uniformed capacity, with SERCO providing a contract firefighting capability.