duty of care
four Airmen their current posting is something different than that
normally experienced by most Air Force personnel.
Base Learmonth caretaker staff (from left) Corporal Andy
Nicholson, Corporal Rodger Shordon, Flight Sergeant Phil
Jones and Corporal Steve Lawrence.
Photo by CPOPH Mal Back
They are the caretaker staff at Learmonth Air Base, 1300km north
of Perth on the remote North West Cape, near Exmouth.
For SNCOIC Flight Sergeant Phil Jones and his team of Corporals
Steve Lawrence, Andy Nicholson and Roger Shordon, their posting
to Learmonth is a highlight of their careers in the Air Force to
As members of No. 396 Combat Support Wing HQ based in Darwin, their
role at Learmonth is to maintain the base in an operational condition
to permit a Squadron or Training unit to begin operations very shortly
Between February and November the base has regular deployments from
squadrons and units, such as No. 79 Squadron and No. 2 Flying Training
School. Hercules and P3C Orion aircraft that call in regularly for
refuelling also keep the caretaker team busy.
On top of their normal employment, the current crop of personnel
at Learmonth has been called on to provide assistance to the civil
community, such as providing assistance to victims of a car accident
near the base when roads to Exmouth, 36km to the north, were isolated
by floods and emergency services could not get to the accident from
Similarly, some 70 civilians were fed and accommodated by the Air
Force when they could not proceed owing to the flooded road conditions.
A normal posting cycle to RAAF Base Learmonth is for two years,
with the option for a one-year extension.
It is recommended those who have financial, welfare or family medical
issues should not consider a posting to Learmonth. The Exmouth District
Hospital provides medical and dental services, while specialist
medical support entails a trip to either Perth or a large regional
town such as Geraldton 700km away.
Outdoor and sporting interests are strongly recommended, as is the
ability to "make your own entertainment" as the infrastructure
available in most towns is either non-existent or rudimentary. The
current incumbents pursue recreational interests such as diving,
fishing, camping, 4WD and shooting.
The cost of living is high, although it is offset by district allowance
and tax concessions.
RAAF Base Learmonth came into existence in the dark days of World
War 2 in 1942 as an east-west dirt strip. During the 1950s the Western
Australia Government tried to seal the runway with little success.
In 1971 No 5 Airfield Construction Squadron began rebuilding the
runway with a north-south aspect of 3.3km in length and establishing
the necessary base infrastructure. This work was completed in 1973.
In 1997, an $80 million upgrade began with new hangars and revetment
spaces being constructed. At the start of March 1999 all work had
been finished, just in time for Cyclone Vance to rip through on
March 20, demolishing much of the infrastructure. The Air Force
rebuilt the damaged base to its current modern standard, with the
Caretakers Married Quarters being completed in November 2001.