Nine Months Deployed With The Air Task Group
13 April 2016
Group Captain David 'Chilli' Smith completed a nine-month deployment as the Commander of the Air Task Group's main operational task unit, Task Unit 630.1, with a ceremony at Australia's main air operating base in the Middle East Region (MER).
Group Captain Smith used his speech to reflect on a successful and productive deployment and to thank those from other coalition nations who had supported him and the Air Task Group.
"This ceremony is but a brief chapter in the Royal Australian Air Force, which has clearly demonstrated that it has trained and prepared airmen and women to deploy and sustain an air task group," said Group Captain Smith.
"There are so many people worthy of recognition and that I wish to thank for supporting me and the Task Unit during my time in command.
"I would like to take a moment to highlight the contribution made by the junior airmen and women of the Air Task Group.
"You have demonstrated an inspirational attitude to fix aircraft, prepare and load weapons, launch and recover aircraft, work all hours of the day and night, work in extremes of heat, and to never stop until the job is done.
"My final thank you goes to that of my family. Without their enduring support over my deployment, I would not have been able to focus my efforts to serve the men and women of the Air Task Group and the Combat Support element."
Group Captain Smith's closing comments were to the incoming commander, Group Captain Brendan 'Buck' Rogers, who assumed command of the Task Unit at the end of the ceremony.
"Buck, you have a strong, dedicated and professional team within your headquarters. Your squadron commanders and their teams excel at their mission," said Group Captain Smith.
"The Air Task Group is rapidly developing the art of expeditionary combat operations."
Task Unit 630.1 is the sub unit of the Air Task Group responsible for the operation, maintenance and support of the Group's three aircraft types currently deployed to the MER.
The ATG of Operation OKRA is operating at the request of the Iraqi Government within a US-led international coalition assembled to disrupt and degrade Daesh operations in the MER. The ATG comprises six RAAF F/A-18A Hornet fighter aircraft, an E-7A Wedgetail airborne command and control aircraft, and a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport air-to-air refuelling aircraft. Additionally, the ATG has personnel working in the Combined Air and Space Operations Centre, and embedded with the 'KingPin' US tactical Command and Control Unit.
The ATG is directly supported by the Combat Support Unit of Operation ACCORDIAN, whose mission is to provide continuous combat support to sustain air operations in the MER. There are up to 350 personnel deployed, at any one time, as part of, or in direct support of the ATG.