The Royal Australian Air Force’s No. 35 Squadron has begun a sister squadron arrangement with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force’s Air Training Wing.
Captain Randall Hepota, from the PNGDF Air Element, visited No. 35 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley on the final leg of his international exchange.
Kicking off the sister squadron ('susa skwadron' in Tok Pisin) arrangement with the PNGDF Air Training Wing, CAPT Hepota experienced a C-27J Spartan flight and met with personnel capability specialist Aircraftwoman Brodee Doubtfire, who will be travelling to PNG for three months as part of the reciprocal Defence Cooperation Program in August.
The sister squadron arrangement was mutually beneficial, setting the foundations for joint training opportunities and integrated air capability, according to C Flight Commander No. 35 Squadron Squadron Leader Robert Crawford.
“Exposure to new ways of thinking and sharing skills with the PNGDF is invaluable for all of us at No. 35 Squadron," SQNLDR Crawford said.
“We look forward to helping our closest neighbour rebuild their sovereign aviation capability and safety systems.
“In turn, the PNGDF will help us in our mountainous flying training, airfield facility access and other training exercises in PNG, working side-by-side on future joint humanitarian and disaster relief operations."
Later this year, the PNGDF Air Transport Wing will begin flying the PAC 750XL aircraft, with the help of RAAF flying instructor Wing Commander Tim Shaw and his team, working as part of the Defence Cooperation Program based in PNG.
“It’s a two-sided coin; an opportunity for both the PNGDF Air Transport Wing and RAAF to learn from each other, strengthening our relationship,” SQNLDR Crawford added.
Flying clothing was also shared with CAPT Hepota by No. 35 Squadron, including flying suits, gloves and jackets for PNGDF susa skwadron aircrew to help kickstart the PNGDF Air Element flying training.
ACW Doubtfire said she was fortunate to be deployed to Papua New Guinea and was thankful to be selected for the first rotation of the people capability specialist position.
“I’ll be assisting the PNGDF with administration and supporting other ADF members who are already in-country,” ACW Doubtfire said.
“This experience will be incredible and I’m sure will inform the rest of my career in Air Force.
“I’m very much looking forward to meeting the rest of the team in PNG and strengthening our partnership.”
Under the sister squadron arrangement, No. 35 Squadron members will get a unique opportunity to help augment PNGDF aviation training, mentoring and courseware development.
“The enduring PNG three-month exchange positions will be offered with first preference to No. 35 Squadron before being opened up to wider Air Force, making this arrangement something all of us can support and be a part of,” SQNLDR Crawford said.
“This will be a great opportunity to learn about their unique culture and language.”
Journalist – Defence and Security, Momentum Media
Nastasha is a Journalist at Momentum Media, she reports extensively across veterans issues, cyber security and geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific. Previously, she was a Content Producer at Verizon Media, a Digital Producer for Yahoo! 7 and Channel 7, a Digital Journalist at Sky News Australia, as well as a Website Manager and Digital Producer at SBS Australia. She started her career in media as a Video Producer and Digital News Presenter at News Corp Australia.