Home' Air Force News : December 8th 2011 Contents 20
December 8, 2011
SQNLDR John McCourt
THERE is an old saying that behind
every great achievement there are
those quiet achievers who simply
make it happen.
Fitting that adage perfectly was
CPL David Thomson, of the Air
Component Coordination Element
(ACCE), who was responsible for
ensuring everything in Hangar 31
at RAAF Base Darwin was ready
to provide the perfect backdrop for
US President Barack Obama's visit
to the base on November 17.
We now know Mr Obama
received a rapturous welcome from
the 1800-plus Australian and US
troops and invited community mem-
bers. However, only a very few were
aware of the enormous effort put in
SQNLDR John McCourt
IT'S not every day you go to work with
orders to help protect the President of
the United States.
For the security police (SECPOL)
team at RAAF Base Darwin it was
a case of putting in place what they
had been trained to do when Barack
Obama visited Darwin in November.
They were responsible for ensur-
ing airbase security and making sure
it was done with the maximum of
effort and the minimum of fuss.
While parts of their role remain
appropriately confidential, their
duties included guarding Air Force
One -- the Boeing 747 used by the
President as a virtual flying White
House. The team of 30 SECPOL
members also ensured the vehi-
cles for the presidential motorcade
were secure. The vehicles arrived
days before the President and were
housed in an air base hangar.
Mr Obama's visit went without
a hitch -- except maybe the threat by
Mother Nature to literally rain on his
With the ready agreement of the
US Secret Service, the SECPOL team
posed for some photos alongside the
President's personal vehicle that was
used during his visit to Darwin.
The vehicle was part of a long --
and very secure -- motorcade that took
Mr Obama from RAAF Base Darwin
to the USS Peary memorial on the
foreshore of Darwin's CBD and back
again for a meet-the-troops engage-
ment on base.
OIC Force Protection Flight
FLTLT Jodie Dell said the men and
women -- and well-trained dogs -- did
a great job.
"I'm very proud of their profes-
sionalism and their dedication,"
FLTLT Dell said. "I am also very
happy everything went so well."
The Secret Service obviously
thought they were a top bunch --
happy to let members take photos of
themselves in front of Air Force One
as it waited on the hardstand area at
RAAF Base Darwin's air movements
area for the President's departure.
LEUT Peter Croce
BARACK Obama was not the only
one who wooed the crowd at RAAF
base Darwin -- one pressed Air
Force blue safari suit caught the eye
of pop star Jessica Mauboy.
The young star, who usu-
ally rubs shoulders with the music
heavyweights in Los Angeles, took
Commander Northern Command
AIRCDRE Ken Watson by surprise
when she approached him for a
The Air Force's safari suit is
traditionally worn in the tropics for
official receptions and ceremonial
Witnesses confirmed they saw
a tinge of blush on the officer's
face as he willingly posed with the
singer after she performed at RAAF
Base Darwin for the President's
"I was as surprised as anybody
when she stopped and asked me
for a photo as the senior officer
in Northern Australia; how could
I knock back a picture with one
of the Territory's most famous
exports?" he said.
"It'll be one for the books and
something I can bring up with my
daughters next time I catch them
talking about music -- I met the
President and had my photo with
AIRCDRE Watson was one of
17 personnel from Headquarters
Northern Command who downed
tools from Operation Resolute to
attend the event.
to Darwin; left,
Peter Croce, AB
Excuse me, sir, smile for Jessica Mauboy
by CPL Thomson and a dedicated
team of Defence personnel and con-
tractors to make it all happen.
The OC of the ACCE, SQNLDR
Brett Williams, said CPL Thomson
was determined to get the job done
-- and done right.
"He basically worked around
the clock," he said. "I think he's
earned some time off now that the
event is over."
The huge aircraft hangar was
transformed into an auditorium of
decked seating, a presidential stage,
massive draped American and
Australian flags and appropriate
camouflage netting to set the scene.
"I was just doing my job," said
a modest CPL Thomson.
Making hangar fit for a president
Photo: AB James
Obama was in
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