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Army May 24, 2012
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NATO's largest airbase and
the busiest single runway
operation in the world,
Kandahar Air Field is home
to Australia's Rotary Wing Group
First deployed to Afghanistan in
2006, RWG is staffed by personnel
from the Townsville-based 5 Avn Regt
and operates two Chinooks in support
of ISAF operations.
The 10th rotation of RWG is embed-
ded with the US Army's 25th Combat
Aviation Brigade and performs combat
service support, quick response force
and air mobile missions.
Home to more than 30,000 person-
nel, Kandahar Air Field has more than
21,000 aircraft from 42 different nations
landing and taking off each month and
supports more than 360 military and
RWG troop commander Capt
Andrew McConville said the group
did everything up to direct-action
tasks, which were deliberate missions
designed to take troops out and put
them on the ground to clear an objective
"We do an average of five standard
missions per week, which will normally
last six hours but can last as long as
10 hours during the day, and at night
they can last five to six hours," Capt
"The US task force is fantastic.
They have a 'can do' attitude and are
all about flying for the troops on the
ground, so it is actually quite rewarding
to work with them."
About 65 ADF personnel serve with
RWG and are deployed to support oper-
ations from February to October each
The Chinook provides significant
lift capability in high-altitude condi-
tions, making it well suited to opera-
tions within a traditionally harsh envi-
Cpl Mark Doran takes to the skies with the aircrews playing a small
role in the major air operation at Kandahar.
Small part of the big
Capt McConville said Afghanistan's
environment was the crews' biggest
"It has taken more helicopter casual-
ties than the insurgent threat," he said.
"The high altitude in the mountains,
the heat in summer and the high winds
combine to make very unstable condi-
tions for operating an aircraft.
"There is also the challenge from
insurgent threats and getting in and out
safely when operating near the forward
operating bases, which are normally sit-
uated in the green zones."
Kandahar was and still is the
operational centre of gravity for the
Taliban, evidenced by the regular rock-
et attacks and the number of trauma
patients received at the NATO Role 3
Multinational Medical Unit from con-
flicts in the field.
Cpl Nik Nekeare has been deployed
since February and is one of six air
crewmen based at Kandahar with RWG.
He's responsible for loading and secur-
ing passengers and cargo.
"Being in Afghanistan involved in
Operation Slipper is an absolute high-
light of my career and by working with
the US forces we get to compare our
level of professionalism with theirs and
demonstrate our ability to perform," Cpl
"The US Army does things a bit dif-
ferently but they get the job done just as
well as us.
"Afghanistan is a beautiful country
with what is now a changing environ-
ment from the winter cold to the warmth
of spring and we are fortunate to be able
to fly over the wire every day and see it.
"It gives me satisfaction as, although
we are a large asset in Australia, here
we are just a small part of this opera-
tion with only two helicopters working
alongside the 30 US Chinooks based at
Kandahar Air Field.
"We are proving ourselves and gain-
ing a lot of experience as the RWG pro-
vides a valuable contribution with a sig-
nificant impact to this large organisation."
Aussie touch: US troops are transported to a patrol base on board an
Photo by Cpl Mark Doran
Gunning to go: Cpl Nik Nekeare prepares a Chinook's Minigun
before a mission.
Photo by Cpl Mark Doran
Warm up: Rotary Wing Group aircrew conduct a pre-flight brief inside
a CH-47D Chinook.
Photo by Cpl Melina Mancuso
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