Just after midday on March 4, a C-130H Hercules belonging to Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI, Indonesian Armed Forces) transited RAAF Base Darwin on its way back to Indonesia.
On board the aircraft were 38 TNI personnel, mostly engineers, returning home after a month of assisting with Operation Bushfire Assist in the Blue Mountains region of NSW.
Waiting shoulder-to-shoulder on the hot and humid tarmac was the senior Australian Defence Force officer of RAAF Base Darwin, Wing Commander Andrew Anthony, and Indonesian Consul to the Northern Territory Dicky Soerjanatamihardja.
Both were looking forward to meeting the transiting personnel.
"Being here to meet and greet the troops with Wing Commander Anthony is clear proof of the mutual respect, understanding and cooperation that exists between Indonesia and Australia,” Mr Soerjanatamihardja said.
"As the closest of neighbours, we care for each other’s welfare, especially in difficult times. The TNI personnel here today who assisted with the bushfires are Indonesia’s expression of sympathy and support to the Australian people in what has been an extremely challenging period.”
The Consul took the time to greet and shake hands with every one of his countrymen. He then addressed the contingent, underscoring the appreciation felt by both Indonesians and Australians for their efforts.
Wing Commander Anthony, who invited the Consul and his staff on base as special guests, echoed Mr Soerjanatamihardja’s sentiments and highlighted the strong relationship between Australia and Indonesia.
"The bushfire crisis was an unprecedented emergency and we are extremely grateful for Indonesia’s support to Australia in our time of need. The TNI personnel who deployed gave up time with their families to assist. Farewelling them at their last stop in Australia was a fitting way to reinforce the mateship between Australian and Indonesian service members.” Wing Commander Anthony said.
"Inviting the Consul to farewell the TNI personnel was a small gesture of appreciation given the significant contribution by Indonesia. We spoke about the strong relationships between the Australian and Indonesian militaries, which are further reinforced through combined exercises held in the NT, most notably Pitch Black.
"In his address, the Consul passed on his appreciation for Australia’s hospitality towards the TNI personnel. I was humbled by the Consul’s kind words and the appreciation shown by the TNI troops as they departed. For me, this event reinforces the strong bond between Indonesia and Australia at all levels.”