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2 Op Samoa Assist
AIR FORCE October 15, 2009
By WO2 Graham McBean
WITH some classic understate-
ment Frank Rees says it was "very
pleasant" to see the Australian aero-
medical evacuation (AME) team
cross the tarmac at Faleolo airport in
Samoa to take him home.
The day before, the injured Mr
Rees, his wife, Merilyn, and their
daughter, Felicity, were swept away
by a wave up to 10m high just seconds
after the tsunami sirens had sounded
at the Coconut Beach Resort.
As the massive C-17 disgorged
medical and emergency supplies, the
AME specialists from RAAF Base
Williamtown exited the aircraft and
immediately went to work.
Mr Rees and his family were
among the first six Australian groups
medically evacuated back to RAAF
"I am so sad to be leaving Samoa
when it is in such a state," Mr Rees
"I am sad for its people."
Miraculously, Mr Rees was the
only one of his family seriously
injured when the first of four killer
waves pounded the coastal resort.
As he waited patiently in a wheel-
chair with his family, he spoke of
waking to the earthquake and the
catastrophe that followed.
"It was terrifying. Each of us
thought we would die," he said.
"A wall of water took us away and
almost immediately we were separat-
AME's first aid
LUCKY TO BE
ALIVE: Air Force
Zoe Wilson and
was injured in the
while on holiday
with his family.
Photo: CPL Chris
By WO2 Graham McBean
IT WAS all in a day's work for
the movers from 1 Airfield Opera-
tions Support Squadron (1AOSS)
detachment at RAAF Base Am-
berley who were called on to assist
with the Samoan relief effort.
A six-person Mobile Air Load
Team (MALT) deployed on October
1 with the 36SQN C-17 to assist
with airfield movements.
The air loaders spent four days
on the ground in Samoa working
side-by-side with the New Zealand
Air Force and Army contingent
at Faleolo airport near the capital,
LACW Natasha Marlow said the
Amberley-based MALT was one of
a number of teams on short-notice-
to-move status in support of airlift
operations, either in Australia or
"It's a little bit tiring, but it is
always fun to get a call in the mid-
dle of the night that you're leaving
for somewhere the next morning,"
LACW Marlow said. "It's fairly
high-paced work, which is a good
thing, because you don't feel the
tiredness unless you sit down and
say 'what's next?'; that does not
The team was warned out for the
task at 9.30pm on September 30 for
a 5am start the next day.
Even then, they still had to assist
the other Amberley teams in loading
the aircraft for the next morning.
During the critical response
stage, the movers were an integral
part in offloading emergency aid
and support stores almost around
The operational experience also
gave them opportunities to unload a
variety of different assets not often
brought in during exercises such as
helicopters being loaded onto the
LACW Marlow said the MALT
had practically worked around the
clock but it was good to help out.
"The first day we started at 5
o'clock and didn't get to bunk down
until after midnight," she said.
"We had about two hour's sleep
and had to get up and do another
full day -- they were pretty long
The MALT returned to Amberley
on October 4.
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ed. I saw my wife go in one direction
and Felicity and I went in different
It was during the second wave that
Mr Rees was struck in the back by a
large object and he was submerged
for "quite a long time".
As he recalled the event, medi-
cal officer FLTLT Lisa Maus and her
five-staff AME team began his pre-
flight check and stabilisation process
on the edge of the tarmac.
Medics checked blood pressure,
pulse, temperature, assessed pain lev-
els and oxygen saturation and ticked
through their checklist.
Two AME teams -- each comprising
a doctor, nurse and medics -- deployed
from RAAF Base Williamtown as the
ADF online teams.
Despite their often tragic
duties, CPL Rickie Kelly from 2
Expeditionary Health Squadron said it
was an important role and he enjoyed
contributing to the work of the medi-
"It is the sort of thing we have
been training for our whole careers so
it is good to put our training into prac-
tice for real," CPL Kelly said.
Within two hours of landing in
Samoa the patients were ready and
waiting for the C-17 to refuel.
Shortly afterwards the aircraft lift-
ed off and headed for Australia.
Natasha Marlow (left) assists
AME team members CPL
Samantha Melville and
FLTLT Amanda Gardner
as their medical stores
are unloaded off a C-17 at
Faleolo International Airport.
HEAVE HO: Right, RAAF
and RNZAF personnel
combine to unload a RNZAF
helicopter out of a C-130.
Photos: CPL Chris Moore
Air Force assistance started on Sep-
tember 30 when a wide range of
Air Force units and personnel were
warned out to move. Included were
the Air Mobility Control Centre, 36
and 37SQNs, Health Services Wing
First asset to depart was a 36SQN
C-17 that flew to Apia on the
morning of October 1 carrying
AusAID officials, 10 Air Force AME
specialists, six Mobile Air Load
Team personnel from 1AOSS and
20 tonnes of stores.
Then came three 37SQN C-130s.
One from Australia ferried in stores,
extra personnel and 34 civilian
emergency management special-
The other two RAAF C-130s flew
in from New Zealand carrying New
Zealand officials, personnel and
The C-17 and two C-130s subse-
quently returned to Australia; the
third was tasked to fly in another
RNZAF helicopter. The C-17 mede-
vaced injured Australians home for
On the ground, the AME teams
commenced initial treatment and
preparation of injured persons for
evacuation to Australia.
The 1AOSS MALT team worked
with New Zealand personnel at
the airport offloading and moving
MALT-i skills make
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