Hercules aircraft are a familiar sight in the skies over the central New South Wales town of Lake Cargelligo, but rarely do crews have the opportunity to meet with locals.

However, members of the Lake Cargelligo community relished a chance to tour a No. 37 Squadron C-130J Hercules.

Similar to a visit to the rural town of Gilgandra, New South Wales, in early June, the visit to Lake Cargelligo was the first time RAAF personnel engaged with local Indigenous communities during a Hercules visit on July 24.

Sergeant Sam Bax, a loadmaster from No.37 Squadron, shows children from Lake Cargelligo Early Learning Centre her flight helmet as they tour a C-130J Hercules during an Air Force community engagement visit to Lake Cargelligo. Photo: Sergeant Christopher Dickson

This included a traditional Welcome to Country and engagement with RAAF Indigenous Liaison Officers.

Also visiting on the day were classes of students from local pre-schools, a primary school and a high school.

Flight Lieutenant Tjapukai Shaw, the Indigenous Liaison Officer for No. 22 Squadron, said the trip to Lake Cargelligo had been received warmly.

“The local Aboriginal Land Council wants to know if we can do it annually,” Flight Lieutenant Shaw said.

“There’s many in the community who might not understand what it is we do, why it’s important, or even whether it’s a pathway that’s open to them.”

“We don’t often have an opportunity to stop and talk to the community, but when we do we’re overwhelmed by the positivity.”

Joining him on the flight to Lake Cargelligo were fellow Indigenous Liaison Officers from RAAF Bases Williamtown and Wagga, and from the Canberra region.

All four members posted into their current roles in January.

“Having the four of us with the Hercules in Lake Cargelligo allowed us to share that experience across our network,” Flight Lieutenant Shaw said.

“Seeing how other units and bases forge relationships with communities allows each of us to bring that experience to our bases and apply it across RAAF.

“All of the Indigenous Liaison Officers are bringing a variety of experiences to their role, and there are things one of us might be aware of that others haven’t seen.”

Lake Cargelligo’s 4000-foot unsurfaced runway is one of several across rural New South Wales that have been used for decades to train Hercules aircrew.

A No.37 Squadron C-130J Hercules arrives at Lake Cargelligo for an Air Force community engagement visit. Photo: Sergeant Christopher Dickson

These communities are accustomed to Hercules flying around the airfield at low level, by day and night, conducting numerous touch-and-go landings from the unsurfaced airstrip.

Commanding Officer No. 37 Squadron Wing Commander Ben Christie said that experience is translated into support to real-world operations.

“The Lake Cargelligo community may not realise it, but their continued support ensures we’re ready to deploy during times of need,” Wing Commander Christie said.

“A crew flying from Lake Cargelligo or Gilgandra one week might find themselves deployed to the Middle East Region the next week, or supporting humanitarian operations in the immediate region.

“We don’t often have an opportunity to stop and talk to the community, but when we do we’re overwhelmed by the positivity – it’s a very special experience for the crews.”