More than 60 members of Rotary Wing Group Six (RWG 6) returned home to Australia yesterday (3 November 2011) after eight months operating two Australian Army CH-47D “Chinook” helicopters in Afghanistan.
The Task Group, drawn mainly from the Townsville-based 5th Aviation Regiment and across 16th Aviation Brigade, was embedded with the US 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, known as Task Force Lift, at Kandahar Airfield, from February this year.
Commanding Officer of RWG 6, Lieutenant Colonel Neil Monaghan said the deployment had been a success.
“I’m really proud of my team, the way they’ve taken the challenge to come here for eight months head-on with a minimum of fuss,” Lieutenant Colonel Monaghan said.
“I think they have done a fantastic job. We’ve achieved everything that our mission set out for us to do.”
The detachment operated throughout Uruzgan, Daykundi, Kandahar and Zabul Provinces.
RWG 6 Operations Officer, Captain Luke Hodda said over the deployment, the Task Group exceeded 710 hours flying time, conducted 135 combat missions, transported 5237 passengers and moved approximately 470,390 kilograms of freight, both internally and slung externally.
“Eighty-five per cent of our work is combat service support, moving people and cargo around the battle space,” Captain Hodda said.
“However, we have also provided support to construction of Afghan National Army checkpoints, two periods of support to Special Operations Task Group and conducted combat support tasks such as air assaults with the US conventional infantry.”
The low point of the RWG 6 rotation was the death of Australian Army aviator, Lieutenant Marcus Case, who was killed when one of the Chinooks crashed while undertaking a re-supply mission in Zabul Province on 30 May 2011.
“The loss of Marcus and aircraft 102, and the ramifications of that, will affect everyone who was part of this detachment for the rest of their lives,” Lieutenant Colonel Monaghan said.
For the first time since RWG began operations in 2006, the Chinooks will remain in Kandahar over the Afghan winter for their scheduled deep level maintenance phase.
RWG Seven will commence operations in Afghanistan in February 2012.
Ministerial Support and Public Affairs,
Department of Defence,