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September 2, 2010
LAC Aaron Curran
THROW in Kiwis, RAAFies,
Americans, C-130s and a
remote location and you have a
unique mix -- but it was a mix
that managed to put on a seamless
display of teamwork during Exercise
Precision Red recently.
Exercise Precision Red, held in
July, involved high-intensity deployed
airfield operations across three
remote airfields in the Townsville and
Shoalwater Bay Field Training Areas.
Williamson Airfield in Shoalwater
Bay was the central point of the exer-
cise.No. 2 Airfield Defence Squadron
(2AFDS) provided the nucleus of a
combined force that conducted an
early entry operation to seize, clear,
establish and operate an airfield with-
in a hostile environment.
Parts of Air Lift Group (ALG)
and Combat Support Group (CSG),
assisted by a 10-man team from
the US Air Force's 736th Security
Forces Squadron in Guam and a New
Zealand Air Load Team, combined to
strengthen the relationship between
the combat support and air lift worlds.
XO 2AFDS SQNLDR Jonathon
Durden said it was great to see
Williamson develop from an isolated
strip in a hostile environment to a
fully secured and supported air base.
"Each element of the team brought
their own skills, equipment and exper-
tise to the table and the sum proved
much greater than the parts," he said.
"In the past, many of the organisa-
tions represented there would have
conducted their own unit-level activi-
LIKE the legendary Phoenix
rising from the ashes, RAAF
Learmonth never fails to rise
from short periods of inactivity
to support the Air Force in conducting
a wide range of important ADF train-
ing activities and operations.
Located on the west coast, 1220km
north of Perth, Learmonth is one of
three bare bases that provide the ADF
with a range of valuable options.
As the Air Force's busiest bare
base, Learmonth has recorded a num-
ber of impressive milestones in recent
Its milestones are a tribute to
the efforts of four men from 396
Expeditionary Combat Support Wing.
For several years FSGT Les Johnston,
CPL David Burman, CPL Peter
Bagdonas and CPL Wayne Docherty
have performed small miracles in
bringing Learmonth back online for
a range of regular training activities
involving 2 Flying Training School,
79SQN and 2 Airfield Defence
This year alone, Learmonth, on
very short notice, was made opera-
tional to receive scores of Air Force
and ADF personnel for a range of
important exercises such as Exercises
Nomad, Western Phoenix and
Site manager FSGT Johnston said
he was initially stunned by the tempo
of maintaining Learmonth and having
it ready on a 24/7 basis.
"Most people probably imagine
Learmonth and the other bare bases as
being a bit of a holiday posting, where
nothing much happens -- but nothing
could be further from the truth," he
said."Life on a bare base is dynamic
and extremely busy, as well as reward-
FSGT Johnston said that among
many milestones, Learmonth's most
significant one this year was getting
the base operational for 2AFDS for
Exercise Nomad, and for 79SQN for
Exercise Western Phoenix during
which the range area was used for
aerial bombing practice for the first
time in 18 years.
He said in addition to numerous
annual training exercises, Learmonth
has supported ADF operations, such
as Operation Resolute, while also
being put on standby as visiting US
carrier groups pass along the coast.
Learmonth's capacity to respond
swiftly to any contingency was
demonstrated numerous times last
year when, on short notice, the base
received US fighter aircraft and a
commercial airliner that had experi-
enced mechanical issues.
FSGT Johnston said both incidents
were managed with aplomb and great
professionalism, particularly assisting
local emergency volunteers handling
more than 40 passengers injured when
their commercial airliner experienced
a significant drop in altitude.
The joining instruction for staff
posted to this truly remote locality
warns that "applicants and their fami-
lies should be aware of the remoteness
of Learmonth and the stresses related
to this remoteness".
Yet FSGT Johnson's community-
engagement initiatives have forged
important links with the locals, open-
ing the door to greater understanding
as well as simple friendships.
Photo: AC Mark Friend
Learmonth rises to the occasion again and again
ties in order to practise and confirm
their specialist capabilities. What we
replicated there is the way we would
fight -- with flying, combat support
and force protection operations seam-
lessly integrated to achieve a precise
SQNLDR Dean Bruce, the Air
Operations Support Element (AOSE)
commander, said the most pleasing
aspect to come from the activities at
Williamson was the unforseen ben-
efits of collaboration.
"While we were able to offer a lot
to 2AFDS we were surprised by the
amount we were able to learn from
them," he said.
"We were able to provide the lads
in the field with hot meals, showers,
and a link with the real world, while
they went to a lot of effort to assist
us to improve our ability to live and
work in a hostile field environment.
These lessons have made us a more
effective organisation as a whole."
The USAF element also gained
from the opportunity to fully integrate
within the 2AFDS patrols.
ALWAYS READY: Above, 2AFDS ADG
LAC Greg Polak assists in the protection of
air assets during Exercise Precision Red;
left, medical staff from 381 Expeditionary
Combat Support Squadron assist a civilian
contractor who had collapsed into the
RACQ Rescue helicopter.
Photos: FLTLT Chris Tiedemann
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