As you would expect for the RAAF’s Expeditionary Airbase Operations Unit, maintenance support for flying operations on Operation Okra was crucial. 

Mt Gambier’s Sergeant James Jacob was the sole ground support equipment fitter at Camp McNamara, while deployed to the Middle East region. 

“My primary role was the planning for and maintenance of ground support equipment that assisted flying operations, as well as maintenance support to the wider camp,” Sergeant Jacob said.

“I essentially covered the jobs from leading aircraftsman to sergeant. That sounds like a lot but it gave me the opportunity to plan and coordinate work and I got to swing the spanners as well.”

Sergeant Jacob also filled the secondary duties of airfield driver trainer and safety coordinator.

He said his responsibilities had grown since his previous deployment to the Middle East in 2004 .

“As a leading aircraftsman on my first deployment, I was the junior tradesman in the team and had just completed my log book,” Sergeant Jacob said.

“At Camp McNamara my role had me operating mainly independently and required a detailed knowledge of needs. I was also able to reach out to the mechanical equipment operations and maintenance section over at the ADF’s main operating base, Camp Baird – they were great support.” 

Sergeant Jacob said the COVID-19 pandemic called on his resourcefulness.

“The restrictions created by the pandemic placed strains on parts supplies because it reduced the availability of some parts and equipment normally easy to source,” Sergeant Jacob said.

“The longer lead times required forecasting further out to allow sufficient time for parts to arrive, but minor things like a random screw, bolt or tyre tube could usually be sourced through the US Air Force who we shared the base with.”

The Expeditionary Airbase Operations Unit handed over Camp McNamara to the US in October following the return to Australia of the RAAF’s Air Task Group 630’s E-7A Wedgetail and KC-30A refueller.

In September they flew their final Operation Okra missions as part of the ADF’s contribution to the international Coalition’s defeat of Daesh in Iraq.