Army Squadron dispatched on mercy mission
22 August 2014
Jetlag, sweltering heat, humidity and the prospect of ongoing humanitarian aid tasks have only added to the enthusiasm of a small detachment of Army personnel from 176 Air Dispatch Squadron (176 AD SQN).
The 16 soldiers from RAAF Base Richmond, New South Wales, deployed to Operation ACCORDION in the Middle East Region just 24 hours after receiving the call for a crash deployment.
For the first time since Timor Leste in 1999, the Squadron was called up to deploy on operations to prepare the air drop of relief stores in response to the humanitarian crisis on Sinjar Mountain in Northern Iraq.
Officer-in-Charge of the detachment, Captain James Clarke, said it was easy to motivate his soldiers for the special deployment.
“We got the call on Saturday, by Sunday we had completed what we needed to do at home and we were packed and on our way on a C-17,” he said.
“We hit the ground running and started rigging the aid stores for airdrop within hours after we got off the plane on 12 August.”
The critical mission on the evening of 13 August 2014 delivered 150 boxes of high energy biscuits and 340 boxes of bottled water – enough to sustain 3,700 people for 24 hours.
“The team is constantly training and are incredibly motivated to do their jobs each day,” he said.
“It’s been at least 15 years dating back to the first free drops in Timor that we have plied our role operationally for a humanitarian aid task.
“This will be a memorable achievement for all of us and to do your job and save lives is something we will never forget.”
The Australian Army’s 176 Air Dispatch Squadron includes a platoon of parachute riggers in addition to the Air Dispatch troops.
Parachute riggers are part of the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps while the Air Dispatch troops are part of the Royal Australian Corps of Transport.
In recent years elements of 176 AD SQN have deployed to Timor Leste, Solomon Islands, and the Middle East.
In addition to C-130J Hercules tasks, the unit can also carry out aerial delivery from C-17A Globemaster aircraft as well as perform a range of wide spectrum of parachutist duties.
A Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules completed an eight-hour mission over the night of 13-14 August 2014 to deliver 10 bundles of critical supplies to the stranded people.
The operational air drop was the first mass air delivery of humanitarian cargo since the outbreak of violence in East Timor in 1999.
The Australian Hercules was one of a 16-aircraft package including USAF C-17s and C-130Hs and a British C-130J to respond to the humanitarian crisis.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin inspected the loaded aircraft and also the work of 176 AD SQN personnel hours before the mission during a whistle-stop tour of the base.