Saturday, April 13, 2024

NZDF winds up Exercise Pitch Black

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has completed a three-week biennial exercise with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in the Northern Territory.

This year was the largest version of Exercise Pitch Black yet, with 17 nations, more than 100 aircraft and around 2500 personnel involved.

Sixty NZDF personnel took part, primarily carrying out supporting roles which allow the aircraft to take to the skies and keep flying. They included defence public affairs, military police, chefs, air movements, security forces, communication and information system technicians, medics, ground support equipment, technicians, aviation refuellers, intelligence specialists, logistics officers and firefighters and military working dogs.

NZ Army chefs have been helping feed up to 500 aircrew at a sitting – numbers they don’t normally get at home.

NZDF detachment commander, Flight Lieutenant Shirley Barakuta said the great thing about Exercise Pitch Black was that NZDF personnel were performing their roles as they would on operations.

“Our security forces have been patrolling the airfield and ensuring the security of the aircraft and people, our Aviation Fuel Specialists have been fuelling aircraft and monitoring fuel quality, our Air Load team have been loading aircraft, and our Caterers have been preparing and serving meals.”

Exercises such as Pitch Black provides a unique opportunity for NZDF personnel to practise their roles in an overseas environment in collaboration with other militaries, she said.

“This ensures that our people are combat capable, trained, equipped and ready to contribute to international peace and security.”

RNZAF and RAAF personnel give a security demonstration during the public open day at RAAF Base Darwin during Exercise Pitch Black.

“We have shown that we can work well with RAAF units at the bases in Darwin and Tindal. This has fostered multinational cooperation and trust, enhancing interoperability with a range of other nations.”

Leading Aircraftman, Katrina James, an Aviation Fuel Specialist, said it had been a “blast” working with the likes of the F-35 and F-22 fighter jets, which are among the most advanced aircraft in the world.

The sheer scale of the exercise and the organisation, along with so with many friendly forces from different countries, was amazing, she said.

“It’s been an adventure, and I feel blessed to have been a part of it. It’s been an amazing experience working with other nations and the gratitude that they’ve shown towards us. They’ve been pretty impressed with our work ethic and attitude to the job.”

 

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