December 04, 2019 09:50:08
Santa’s sleigh has come early to a remote Indigenous community in far north Queensland with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) airdropping about a tonne of donated Christmas presents into Lockhart River, about 800 kilometres north of Cairns.
- The Australian Defence Force is delivering supplies to remote communities in Qld and WA for Christmas
- They include first aid kits, toiletries, school supplies and sporting equipment
- The operation doubles as a training exercise for humanitarian relief work
It was the first time the military conducted Exercise Christmas Drop in Australia, designed to not only bring some joy to the residents of the town but to test the capabilities of the military in responding to humanitarian crises.
Wing Commander Ben Poxon was on board the flight to Lockhart River along with Royal Australian Air Force and Army personnel.
He said supplies would also be flown into Kowanyama in Queensland and Roebourne and Yandeyarra in Western Australia.
“We asked the communities what they were most in need of and being remote, it was anything and everything, from bicycle repair kits to footballs, all the way through to sanitary products,” Wing Commander Poxon said.
“We tried to target the communities that wished to engage with us but were also most in need.”
Pallets dropped on airstrip
The nearest major supermarket is hundreds of kilometres from Lockhart River.
Mayor Wayne Butcher said the most wanted item on the community’s wishlist was very simple.
“Rubber thongs — it’s bloody hot up here,” Mr Butcher said.
He said the ADF visited the community about a month ago and spent time with the town’s schoolchildren.
“So the kids being able to see the plane and get inside and have a look around, it was just great,” Mr Butcher said.
Wing Commander Poxon said all of the supplies for the mission were donated from across Australia, loaded onto pallets, and dropped onto an airstrip.
From there, soldiers from the Army picked up the goods and distributed them to the community.
He said the exercise was also a chance for the Air Force to test out the Spartan C-27J — a smaller version of a Hercules aircraft.
“It has a nickname and that’s ‘Battle Budgie’ due to its cute looks but rugged nature,” Wing Commander Poxon said.
He said the aircraft was used in battle situations to deliver supplies to troops and would normally be carrying blood, ammunition, and rations.
“We are required to train crew for battlefield operations,” Wing Commander Poxon said.
“If we weren’t doing this we would be using dummy load like jerry cans of water instead of Christmas presents.
“So what we thought we would do is conduct the tactical training and at the same time deliver the Christmas cheer.”
Wing Commander Poxon said he hoped Exercise Christmas Drop Australia became an annual event with plans already afoot to do the same thing next year.
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December 04, 2019 06:13:44
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