Home' Air Force News : December 10th 2009 Contents Fleet Network Pty Ltd D/L No. 20462
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away from home a
First for our
By LT Madeline Denholm
IN A FIRST for Air Force, three
of its Explosive Ordnance Disposal
(EOD) technicians are working to-
gether in a team to combat the Im-
provised Explosives Device (IED)
threat in the Oruzgan Province of
WOFF Quentin Paske, FSGT
Damien Holding and CPL Benjamin
Freeman are part of the EOD ele-
ment with the second rotation of the
Mentoring and Reconstruction Task
It is a new experience for all
members of the team, whose job
back in Australia or on other over-
seas deployments has been asso-
ciated with air base protection, or
training or advisory roles.
On this deployment, the team
goes out in Personnel Mobility
Vehicles or on dismounted patrols
with infantry troops, which is not
something they traditionally train
for and requires adjusting to the
Army way of operating.
"The Green (Army) world is
something that's foreign to us, and
it's a skill that we pick up on the
job," WOFF Paske said.
"To come over on this deploy-
ment and to perform well enough
to receive the praises that we have
is excellent, and to actually be able
to go out into the Green Zone and
dismount and do an EOD task or
to provide that support is a big dif-
ference from what we traditionally
The job of the EOD techs main-
ly involves clearing the IEDs and
Unexploded Ordnance that are
discovered by Australian troops,
Afghan National Security Forces or
"We're part of the convoy and if
the stuff gets found, we deal with
it, and that's either through using
remote means, such as robots, or in
a worse-case scenario going down
manually and cutting the red wire,
so to speak," FSGT Holding said.
WOFF Paske said the dismount-
ed patrols pose the biggest chal-
lenge for the team.
"If you look at a robot, we can't
carry that on our back, and a bomb
suit weighs nearly 40 kilos, so we
don't carry that on our back as we
patrol on foot," WOFF Paske said.
"Essentially, we go in wearing
the same stuff the infantry soldiers
do and when something's found, we
know that we're going up against an
item that has the potential to kill us,
with what we can carry on our back
to deal with it."
FSGT Holding said the team
members have very little time to
feel nervous, as their focus is on
doing their job.
"On my first job, I didn't even
get time to let it sink in that I'd actu-
ally done an IED. It was after the
fact, once we'd done the job and I'd
stopped and began to pack up, that I
thought 'I've just done an IED', but
even then, I didn't really have time
to sit there and take it in," he said.
While getting to put all his train-
ing into practice has been a high-
light for FSGT Holding, he said
there were downsides.
"The low-light is certainly the
IED strikes that we have to deal
with after they've already gone off,
because we're over here to try to
prevent them from happening."
Both WOFF Paske and FSGT
Holding are from 381 Expeditionary
Combat Support Squadron at
RAAF Base Williamtown, while
CPL Freeman is from 1 Airfield
Operations Support Squadron at
When the number of EOD teams
was increased for MRTF-2, it rep-
resented an opportunity for the Air
Force and the Navy to both provide
In the first part of rotation, the
teams comprised a mix of techni-
cians from the three services, but
more recently, the three Air Force
EODs have begun working together
in the one team.
"This is our chance to go and
do what, between us, we've spent
collectively nearly 17 years of train-
ing for, so to come and do the job is
probably the pinnacle of our career,
in this role," WOFF Paske said.
"To break the ice and set the
foundation for future Air Force peo-
ple to fill on the operational deploy-
ments has been a challenge for us
during our time here, but it's been
accepted now that we can actually
do the job."
By LT Madeline Denholm
THIS is going to be a tough Christ-
mas for FSGT Philip Barnes -- but rest
assured he will have oodles of support
from mates in Oruzgan Province in
There is a chance there could be
snow on the ground at Tarin Kowt and in
But besides a possible white
Christmas, it will be just like home for
the service men and women deployed at
At Forward Operating Base (FOB)
Ripley, they will celebrate Christmas
Day with a tree with all the decorations,
a traditional roast dinner with all the
trimmings, and the swapping of presents.
In keeping with tradition, the sen-
ior officers will serve the soldiers at
FSGT Barnes is with the Force
Support Unit at FOB Ripley.
It will be the first time in 32 years of
marriage to wife Helen that he will not
be at home to celebrate the day.
"I think one of the big things is that
every one of us over here has exactly the
same feeling, so we can relate to each
other pretty well as to how each other is
feeling," FSGT Barnes said.
"It's a special day I think for every-
body when, usually, it's time to be with
your family and close friends, so when
you're away from home, you rely on
your brothers-in-arms to be there with
FSGT Barnes is planning a few early
morning calls on Christmas day: to his
wife, his daughter, his son and his moth-
"The person in my family that's going
to have the hardest time this Christmas is
my mum, because my dad died the day I
left Australia," he said.
"Dad was ex-military himself and he
knew that we've got a job to do and each
year there's going to be members away
from home. He supported the role the
Australians are doing here and he sup-
ported me in what I do."
Planning is still to be finalised
for New Year's Eve and New Year's
Day activities at FOB Ripley, but the
Mentoring Reconstruction Task Force-
2's Regimental Sergeant Major, WO1
Darren Murch, said weather permitting
a game of cricket will definitely be on
TRI-SERVICE TREAT: FSGT Philip Barnes, LS Jeremy Thomas and PTE
Gary Drennan get in the mood for Christmas at Forward Operating Base
Ripley, in Oruzgan Province, Southern Afghanistan.
Photo: SGT Christopher Rohweder
HISTORY MAKING: Three Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal
technicians are working as part of the EOD element with the second
rotation of the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force in Southern
Afghanistan. From left, FSGT Damien Holding, WOFF Quentin Paske
and CPL Ben Freeman. Left, FSGT Holding prepares for an EDO task
with an explosives robot.
Photos: CPL Rachel Ingram
AIR FORCE December 10, 2009
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