Delivering life-saving humanitarian aid in the Middle East and Asia–Pacific region
As thousands fled Daesh terrorists in Iraq, the Air Force completed one of Australia’s most complex humanitarian airdrop operations, providing much-needed supplies to Yazidi civilians who were trapped on Mount Sinjar by encircling Daesh forces.
Flight Sergeant Paul Ross, a C-130J Loadmaster, was one of the crew involved in providing life-saving assistance in northern Iraq in 2014. He helped drop 10 pallets of Australian aid as part of a joint international humanitarian effort with Britain, Canada, France and the United States.
Due to the nature of his work, Paul has become accustomed to being ready to move as soon as a crisis occurs.
‘One afternoon we were simply told we needed to jump on a plane that evening and go to the Middle East to assist our already deployed personnel’, Paul said.
‘We operated in a very complex environment, planning and working with our allies. I remember American C-17s, American Hercules and British Hercules all doing their airdrops, as well as an American AC-130 gunship and British Tornados operating in support, in case anything didn’t go to plan.
‘The highlight of the mission was the successful exit of the load of aid over the mountain, because everything leads up to that one crucial moment. I was quite anxious, but as soon as the load went out the back we knew our mission objective was successful.’
Paul, who began his Air Force career in 1990 as an aircraft technician and is now working as a loadmaster, is a longstanding, well-respected and admired member of the C-130J community. He received an ADF Bronze Commendation for outstanding service on deployment to the Middle East Area of Operations in 2011.
He has been involved in multiple deployments over his career. They include Operation Anode in 2003–04, which made multiple supply trips to Solomon Islands; Operation Sumatra Assist in 2004–05, which contributed to the disaster relief effort in Indonesia; and Operation Philippines Assist in 2013, which provided support after Typhoon Haiyan.
‘As part of the Air Mobility Group and the Hercules culture, humanitarian missions are definitely something we put our hand up for. We realise we are very lucky in Australia and we want to help people out in times of need’, Paul said.