The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is working around the clock to help ferry personnel and supplies from Okinawa to the Japanese disaster zone as part of Operation Pacific Assist – the ADF component of the Australian Government’s assistance to Japan following the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March.
RAAF air crews from Amberley’s 36 Squadron are working in alternate shifts to fly their C‑17 Globemaster III to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, pick up members of the 15th Brigade of the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force, their vehicles and equipment, and fly them to the Japanese mainland to assist in disaster-relief effort.
Commander of the Australian contingent Wing Commander David Howard said the mission was very challenging, but the C‑17, and the RAAF personnel flying and supporting it, were up to the task.
“The mission requires loading the C‑17 with whatever the 15th Brigade deems necessary for the relief effort, such as trucks, trailers and personnel,” he said.
“The C‑17 gives us the opportunity to lift quite a large payload a long way in a fairly short time, so it’s crucial in moving those forces around. To help us achieve this, the RAAF has also deployed an eight-person Mobile Air Load Team that specialises in preparing and arranging loads to fill the C‑17’s cavernous interior.”
Only days earlier the RAAF C‑17 flew through extremely difficult flying conditions to Japan’s snowbound northern island of Hokkaido to ferry more than 100,000lbs of drinking water back to Misawa for distribution by authorities to the relief effort.
Aircraft loadmaster Sergeant Derek Long said that, given the ice and snow on takeoff at Hokkaido, combined with a heavy load of humanitarian aid, it was one of the best examples of flying he had experienced in a C‑17 Globemaster.
“It’s very fulfilling to rise above challenging circumstances and know that the job we are doing is making a very big difference to the effort here in Japan,” he said.
The C‑17A Globemaster and aircrew remain in Japan to assist the Japanese authorities with heavy airlift capability as part of the international disaster-relief effort.
Ministerial Support and Public Affairs,
Department of Defence,
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