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in the deep end
LIKE MILLIONS of others, PLTOFF
Justin Della Bosca's thoughts on De-
cember 30 were with New Year's Eve
celebrations in Sydney.
That all changed with a phone call.
Flooding in the central Queensland
town of Emerald was worsening, requir-
ing an ADF response.
PLTOFF Della Bosca had graduated
his C-130J co-pilot conversion just three
weeks earlier. An aid task on New Year's
Eve would be his first flight for 37SQN.
The 37SQN Christmas Duty Crew
came in to RAAF Base Richmond on
December 31 to prepare an aircraft for
what was anticipated as being a brief
task -- transport a Flexible Habitat from
Amberley to Emerald and come home.
"When we got to Amberley, we real-
ised the aid for Emerald would require
two trips, so it soon became apparent
that we wouldn't make it to Richmond
in time," PLTOFF Della Bosca said.
Arriving at Emerald, however, the
crew discovered the waiting forklift was
far too small for the task of unloading a
"We had to do a combat offload of
the cargo, where we taxi along and the
loadmasters slide the load off the ramp,"
PLTOFF Della Bosca said.
"It's something I only trained for
about a month beforehand at Exercise
Precision Red, but most crews don't
often get to do it."
The Flexible Habitat would prove
a godsend. Provided by Queensland
Fire and Rescue Service, the system of
inflatable tents would allow hundreds of
displaced residents some accommoda-
tion during the New Year period.
Returning to Amberley, the 37SQN
contingent celebrated New Year's Eve in
a modest fashion -- they would be stay-
ing on to support the flood relief.
Another 37SQN C-130J joined the
effort on January 7, leaving the original
Hercules to return to Richmond the fol-
lowing day. More flexible habitats were
delivered to displaced residents.
By this time, the scope of the
response was increasing. More helicop-
ters were required, calling for a C-130H
to transport equipment and personnel
for Navy Sea Kings and Army Black
Hawks to Amberley.
On January 12, floodwaters at
Amberley had receded from the run-
way, but left some taxiways and park-
ing aprons submerged.
The effort by Air Movements per-
sonnel to load aircraft with aid was
A pair of C-130Hs soon found
themselves flying missions out of
Richmond and Amberley, packed
with aid and groceries and bound
for Bundaberg and Charleville.
Supermarket staff accustomed to
unloading semi-trailers found them-
selves unloading a Hercules.
Aircraft were up against the ele-
ments during the relief, forcing crews
to work hard to ensure a Hercules was
available for the next day's tasking.
FLTLT Jamie Andrews, a C-130H
captain with 37SQN, said the local
response was overwhelming.
"When we went out to these towns,
they were extremely grateful for us to
bring them the supplies, and it was our
pleasure and privilege to help out where
we could," FLTLT Andrews said.
SEWAGE TREATMENT FARM: Aerial image of the sewage treatment farm
at RAAF Base Amberley two days after the flood peak. Photo: LAC Dan Pinhorn
CPL Aaron Curran
THEY say that hindsight is a beauti-
ful thing and that statement rang true
for RAAF Base Amberley during the
flood crisis in Queensland.
Due to flood mitigation work done
at the base in the past few years, the
enormous volume of water that came
from the rivers and creeks surround-
ing the base and from the sky above
kept damage to a minimum.
The base is surrounded by the
Bremer River to the north, east and
west and Warrill Creek to the south
and also east.
CO 23SQN WGCDR Clive Wells
said both those rivers were subject to
extreme volumes of water as a result
of the rainfall in the Toowoomba and
Scenic Rim areas on January 10 and 11.
"The Bremer River burst its banks
on the western side of the base on
the Tuesday afternoon and the result-
ant flood flow came directly into the
northern end of the base," he said.
"While Amberley still endured
some flooding, the runway remained
open the whole time but at a reduced
length of nearly 2000 metres for less
than 12 hours. I think it demonstrated
that the mitigation work did its job
and kept the flooding to a specific
area at the northern end of the base
and allowed it to clear quickly once
the flood peak had passed."
CPL Aaron Curran
WITH the dramatic and sudden rise of
flood waters in South East Queensland,
an emergency plan was put in place to
reduce RAAF Base Amberley's work-
force down to essential personnel only.
Members were advised to return to
their homes and secure their property
and assist family members who were
preparing for the expected flood.
CO 23SQN WGDCR Clive Wells
said in conjunction with the stand-
down, the Safebase alert status was
raised to 'Charlie'.
"It provided the Senior ADF
Officer (SADFO) AIRCDRE Noddy
Sawade with singular command of
Amberley-based units for the duration
of the immediate flood situation from
January 11 to 13," he said.
The notification by the Bureau of
Meteorology of extreme flooding and
the likelihood of Amberley being iso-
lated added to the need for the emer-
gency plan to be activated.
Up to 120 personnel remained at
Amberley, including the SADFO, Air
Base Executive Officer, Base Aviation
Safety Officer, Base Security Adviser,
Base Airfield Engineering Officer, Air
Base Command Post, access control,
Air Force security, aircraft re-fuelling,
air movements, catering, air traffic,
medical and facility management per-
Additionally, several 82WG per-
sonnel were recalled to tow the Super
Hornets to and from higher parking
positions on the central tarmac as a
precaution due to the threat that their
normal parking positions could have
Also caught up in the drama were
up to 100 Air Force cadets, aged
from 15 to 19, who remained on-base
after undertaking promotion courses
because they came from flood-affect-
ed areas throughout Queensland.
WGCDR (AAFC) Ian Harding,
OC 2WG Australian Air Force Cadets,
said all the parents were contacted.
"We kept them advised of their
child's welfare and they were all
happy that we were able to look after
them," WGCDR Harding said.
Amberley became a critical part of
the response to the crisis that swept 75
per cent of the state.
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