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March 1, 2012
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PERSONNEL from 37SQN and 1
Airfield Operations Support Squadron
(1AOSS) have again answered the call
for assistance from people affected by
floods in eastern Australia.
This time the call came from the
opal mining town of Lightning Ridge in
northern NSW, a few hundred kilome-
tres south of St George in Queensland.
37SQN was placed on 12 hours
notice to move after their February
5 evacuation of a nursing home at St
CO 37SQN WGCDR Mark
McCallum said his unit flew two mis-
sions into Lightning Ridge, one on
February 16 and another on February
"Just before February 16, Defence
received a request from the NSW
Government, through Emergency
Management Australia, to fly in essen-
tial food and supplies to Lightning
Ridge," WGCDR McCallum said.
"The first mission on included a
forklift and an Air Load Team (ALT)
from 1AOSS at Richmond.
"The second mission involved two
visits to the town's airfield, delivering
more food and essential supplies."
1AOSS ALT leader FLGOFF
Cameron MacPherson said he and his
team of three were put on four hours
notice to move before the first mission.
"About 11am on the 16th we were
told we'd fly to Lightning Ridge and
provide emergency food aid relief to the
town," FLGOFF MacPherson said.
"We'd been told we'd be at the
town for an unspecified period of time
and we left Richmond at 3.30pm with
a forklift, our mission-essential items
such as marshalling equipment and per-
sonal protective equipment, so we could
start unloading what was flown in the
Only after flying over the town did
FLGOFF MacPherson and his team
realise the severity of the situation.
"From the air it looked like we
were flying over the ocean, with little
islands which had popped up all over
the place," he said.
"The town itself was not flooded,
but to the east of the airfield and a cou-
ple of hundred metres from the centre
of the town the water was rising."
After landing FLGOFF MacPherson
liaised with local SES personnel and
conducted a reconnaissance of the air-
field and town, passing the information
back to his headquarters.
The presence of the 37SQN
Hercules and the ALT staying at the
local caravan park overnight was a wel-
come novelty and morale booster to the
people of Lightning Ridge.
"When we got there on the 16th
we had more than 2000 people who
came down to the airport watching us
unload the aircraft and everyone was
very appreciative of us being there,"
FLGOFF MacPherson said.
"Later in the night when we were
having dinner at the local bowling club,
kids were coming up to us and asking
questions and people were thanking us
for our help."
On February 17 the first delivery of
supplies were offloaded while the air-
craft's engines were still running.
"The SES assisted us in break-
ing down the pallets and loading the
food and supplies onto a small truck,"
FLGOFF MacPherson said.
"The second aircraft, which came
in at 4.30pm, fully shut down and we
offloaded four more pallets of food.
"After this we then flew back to
Richmond and took the forklift back
In total, 37SQN and the 1AOSS
ALT delivered more than 30,000kg
of essential food and supplies to the
Lightning Ridge community.
As at February 22, 1AOSS was still
on standby to provide further assistance
to people affected by flooding.
We had more than 2000 people who came down to the airport watching us unload
the aircraft and everyone was very appreciative of us being there.
-- 1AOSS ALT leader FLGOFF Cameron MacPherson describes the reception at Lightning Ridge
HELP IS ON THE
WAY: A C-130H
takes off from RAAF
Base Richmond en
route to Lightning
Photo: LAC Chris Hall
ON ITS WAY: Personnel load relief supplies on to the aircraft at RAAF Base Richmond. Inset: Help bound
for Lightning Ridge.
Photos: SGT Brett Sherriff
Opal mining town next in line
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