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    Kiwi Flag participation cut short for some, success for all

    Exercise Kiwi Flag provides Pacific partners platform to enhance aerial deliveries

    Photo By Senior Master Sgt. Denise Johnson | An extraction parachute deploys as it catches the air current, towing a pallet of...... read more read more

    OHAKEA, New Zealand - Exercise Kiwi Flag started out with 145 international participants and five aircraft but as the real-world crisis in the Philippines came to light, some participants were called to pack up and head to the typhoon-struck country.

    Kiwi Flag is a multilateral Royal New Zealand Air Force-sponsored tactical airlift exercise conducted in New Zealand. The United States Air Force, RNZAF, Royal Australian Air Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force and French Armed Forces of New Caledonia provided air assets and personnel for the engagement. Air operations were conducted out of RNZAF Base Ohakea, New Zealand. The exercise concluded Nov. 27.

    “The basis for this exercise is to enhance our ability to integrate when it comes to unified responses,” said RNZAF Air Commodore Mike Yardley, the Joint Forces Air Component commander for exercises Southern Katipo and Kiwi Flag, “All the participants are here because they care and their leadership cares, so it came as no surprise when several units and aircraft, including our own, departed to support that critical operation.”

    Both the Australian and the New Zealand aircraft were diverted from the exercise leaving two U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster IIIs, one RSAF C-130 Hercules and a French CASA 235 from New Caledonia to make up the remaining KF contingency. The KF participants were also providing airlift to another New Zealand exercise, Southern Katipo.

    Southern Katipo is New Zealand Defence Force's largest multilateral, joint-force, amphibious exercise wherein eight other nations were participating: United States Army and Marines, Australia, Canada, France, Malaysia, Singapore, Papua New Guinea and Tonga.

    “Our participation numbers decreased but the remaining crews, maintenance and air movements personnel worked hard to ensure objectives were met, including airdrop, low-level navigation and, in some cases, night sorties,” RNZAF Base Ohakea Wing Commander Richard Beaton explained

    Despite the dwindling participants and aircraft maintenance issues, 116 participants and four aircraft remained tallying 153 flight hours, 405,715 kilograms of freight moved, 1,056 passengers, and two sick military working dogs transported.

    “We came here with the intention of performing to our best ability,” said RSAF Maj. Jeff Lee, detachment commander from the RSAF’s 122 Squadron in Singapore. “I think we achieved our overall objectives and in some cases exceeded our own expectations - it’s interactions such as these that enhance a combined effectiveness.”

    The C-17s and C-130s also provided a platform for heavy-equipment, light-equipment and container-delivery-system cargo drops along with several personnel drops during the exercise.

    “The Singapore C-130 crews achieved their exercise objectives, maintaining a high aircraft serviceability rate,” RNZAF Flight Lt. Jimmy Davidson, Kiwi Flag Wing Operations Center member. “During the exercise the Singaporeans also flew a mission to drop supplies and rations to the NZ Army in the South Island, which was well received of course.”

    The RSAF C-130 crews conducted 20 sorties and nine aerial deliveries or cargo drops.

    “We had a very successful sortie rate,” Lee explained. “I attribute that to the training and the hard work our maintainers put into the aircraft prior to the exercise … that preparation, along with the support we received from our New Zealand host and the other participants, enabled us to get the job done.”

    Participants were also able to engage with their Pacific partners in ground recoveries of aerial deliveries, observations in low-terrain flying, parachute rigging, aircraft maintenance collaboration, and much more.

    “Kiwi Flag abounded with opportunities to improve capabilities in a multinational setting,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Phillip Shea, 517th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron commander. “You can’t get this at home: the interaction with our brothers and sisters in uniform goes far beyond the technical experience gained. Our airmen developed an appreciation and a respect for one another - they learned how to apply ingenuity, how to communicate, how to overcome roadblocks and limitations … they are better able to respond to foreign environments.”

    Shea is deployed from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, which along with Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, comprised the two U.S. Air Force bases to deploy units to Kiwi Flag. Shea is the 517th Airlift Squadron director of operations at JBER. He hails from Winthrop Harbor, Ill.

    “I’m sure this exercise will benefit future real-world responses for things such as humanitarian relief and disaster response scenarios,” Lee said. “… Getting to know other countries’ capabilities and interacting with one another is invaluable - and also understanding the limitations that sometimes arise, as well - I think Kiwi Flag will benefit us in any collaboration in the future.”

    Though New Zealand hosted the exercise, all of the participants took on the dual role of teacher and student.

    “It’s not a one-man show: it’s everyone coming together and helping each other,” Lee said.

    The remaining participants wrapped up nearly three weeks of subject-matter-expert exchanges Nov. 27.

    “It’s been a phenomenal experience to host our multinational counterparts,” Yardley said. “We faced a real-world natural disaster and various maintenance issues, but in the end, that’s what this exercise is all about: overcoming obstacles to enable a rapid, responsive unified force with our partners in the Pacific … and I think we did just that.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 11.27.2013
    Date Posted: 11.28.2013 21:17
    Story ID: 117532
    Location: AUK, NZ
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