Dedicated to serve in a crisis

Department of Defence

Some of the newest members of the ADF’s Contingency Response Element have deployed to assist with the return of Australian tourists from New Caledonia.

Aircraftman Dylan Kramer, 23, from Wollongong (currently posted to Williamtown, Newcastle), joined the Air Force last year, and this mission is his first deployment. He is ground crew and excited to be part of the Mobile Air Load Team.

“It was very short notice for us. We were given 24 hours’ notice to move so it was pretty cool to pack up and be ready to go for whatever comes,” Aircraftman Kramer said.

“My ultimate goal for this mission would be to make it over to location and be able to help people. I’m really excited for the opportunity. It’s my first trip, it’s a big privilege to be able to be here and be able to contribute.”

Aircraftman Kramer said the deployment had been a big learning experience for him.

“Learning how to deal with those feelings of uncertainty. Being on notice to move means we don’t know what tomorrow looks like, we don’t know what the next few hours looks like, so just being ready for everything is a challenge. Always being switched on but also figuring out how to recover in that period of time too.”

Leading Aircraftman Keo Harris, 29, from Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast, has been in the RAAF for six years and only recently posted into the new Aircraft Security Operations Unit at Amberley.

This mission will be his first operating in an evacuation handling centre.

“It’s been good to see how the team functions when it’s stood up in a crisis situation. It’s been great to see the team come together and work as one team to achieve the goal,” Leading Aircraftman Harris said.

He is keen to gain experience and work out where he can best use his skills in this new role.

“I don’t know exactly what to expect but I feel well equipped after the planning sessions we’ve had for what’s to come,” he said, prior to departure.

Officer in Charge of the contingent is Flight Lieutenant Thomas Rogers, of 383 Squadron, and his Second-In-Charge Flight Sergeant Jason Smart.

The duo were deployed on Operation Beech last year during the assisted departure of Australians from the Middle East region.

Flight Sergeant Smart was in the RAAF 22 years before working in Defence industry for 15 years, and then returning to service two years ago.

“Operation Beech was quite challenging considering the pace we had to pick up and move; it was very short notice. We had to use a lot of initiative while over there to understand what our job was going to look like and then modify and adjust to it,” Flight Sergeant Smart said.

“Similarly, with this mission there are many unknowns and the challenge is to remain agile, not get locked into specifics – timings, things or tasks – because everything is subject to change.

“The term I use with my team is ’embrace the chaos and enjoy the ride’. Control the things you can and that’s your attitude. Get that right and you’re prepared for a successful outcome.”

Flight Lieutenant Rogers said he was proud of the way the whole team remained agile and on high readiness to depart.

“The team turned up day after day prepared and ready to depart. When the green light to move came, we were in the air and on our way in a very short timeframe,” he said.

“It was great to make it over to New Caledonia and make a real difference in the lives of our fellow Australians.”

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