THEY ARE HONOURED
Two No. 40 Squadron personnel from the Squadron’s maintenance flight – W/O Mark Harwood and CPL Gabby Knight – were included in the 2006 New Year Honours List as Additional Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for their contributions to the NZDF’s response to the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. The honours reflect both their individual efforts and the incredible teamwork and professional response displayed by the maintenance flight and by the Squadron as a whole. All No.40 Squadron personnel should be proud. Air Force News spoke to Gabby and Mark about the mission and their experiences.
CPL Gabby Knight working at Whe
nuapai ‘it was more challenging than I expected.’
of my time at the international airport in Jakarta trying desperately to find someone who spoke English so I could find our much-needed spares. I also did a fair bit of running around in Jakarta trying to find and purchase various local purchase items required by the Squadron. What was the biggest challenge for you? Everything was a challenge! The language barrier was probably what led to most of the difficulties we faced but the cultural differences were quite apparent as well. This was the first time the Air Force had operated out of Jakarta, I think, and there were no procedures set in place for anything. We were on our own. Even simple things like getting the aircraft refuelled were problematic. The biggest challenge for me was getting items into the country. It can be difficult even when we’re well established in a country but was so hard when I had to start from scratch. Not speaking any Indonesian didn’t help much either I think and it was really difficult trying to communicate the appropriate level of urgency to the people involved. It was extremely frustrating at times. Describe what it was like to be in Jakarta: Busy, busy, busy. People, cars and motorbikes everywhere - the traffic was just incredible, I don’t know why we didn’t see more accidents. We had a bit of a competition going to see who could spot the scooter loaded with the most people - I think the record was five. Totally different from any city in New Zealand,
and one of those places where the divide between the rich and the poor was huge. It was an experience, definitely. Did you go to Aceh? What was it like? Yes. I went on a flight in and spent a couple of hours on the ground at the airfield. It was extremely busy, with people and aircraft everywhere. You could see where people had made makeshift homes but I probably saw more as we were flying over. The damage was just devastating when viewed from above, huge pieces of the land submerged. Were you surprised to be named in the New Years Honours list? What were your first thoughts? Yes, very surprised. To be honest, I wasn’t totally sure what to think. I thought that perhaps everyone who had been a part of the relief operation was named and so was doubly surprised on the 31st of December when the list was published. What other RNZAF deployments have you been on? I’ve been over to Canada on an exercise and to South East Asia with No. 40 Squadron. Has anything stuck in your mind about the deployment to Jakarta? Probably the people I was over there with, they were a really great bunch of guys (and girls!) Would you do it again? Of course, but would always prefer that something like that never happens again.
CPL GABRIELLE KNIGHT, MNZM NO.40 SQUADRON, MAINTENANCE
How did you find out about the tsunami and what were your first thoughts? I was watching the news with my flatmate. I can remember us both being completely shocked watching it - really appalled that so many people had died. I think at that stage the death toll was only sitting at around 10,000 - it seemed such an unbelievable number of people. I always thought back to that in the later weeks when the toll started moving into the hundreds of thousands. Why did you volunteer to go to Jakarta? I was on duty at No. 40 Squadron over the Christmas period. How long were you there for? I left on 28 December 2004 and arrived back on 8 February 2005. Did you go up on a C-130? Yes. It was a fairly long trip as we made several stops to pick up some Australian Army guys. We stayed overnight in Darwin before getting to Indonesia on the 29th of December. What were you doing on a day-to-day basis? Basically, my job was to make sure that everyone had what they needed to keep the aircraft in the air. It sounds really easy but it was more challenging than I expected! We didn’t take many aircraft spare parts with us initially and so I had to arrange for quite a few items to be sent over from NZ. We had a pretty bad run of luck with consignments going missing so I spent a lot
AFN67 FEBRUARY 06