Rotary Wing Group – Eight (RWG-8), the Australian Army Aviation Detachment, has completed its mission in Afghanistan.
RWG-8 marked the End of Mission during a ceremony at Kandahar Airfield (KAF) on Saturday (14 September 2013).
The KAF-based RWG consisted of two CH-47D Chinook Medium Lift Helicopters operating throughout the Afghan summer months as part of the American-led Regional Command South Aviation Task Force.
Australian Army Aviation Task Groups have completed 11 tours in Afghanistan starting in 2006 as the Aviation Support Element. It was renamed Rotary Wing Group in 2008 and went on to complete eight rotations between 2008 and 2013.
Lieutenant Colonel James Brown, Commanding Officer RWG-8, said the RWG’s contribution was substantial.
“The men and women of RWG-8 achieved 780 flying hours over 90 missions from 2 April to 4 September 2013,” Lieutenant Colonel Brown said.
“We carried more than 3400 passengers and approximately 373,000kg of cargo to dozens of Forward Operating Bases in Southern Afghanistan.
“Australian RWG detachments have made a significant contribution to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) every year since 2006.
“It has been a privilege to support NATO and Afghan troops on the ground as they work to get Afghanistan on the path to stability.”
Australia’s Middle East Area of Operations Commander, Major General Michael Crane said the RWG operated steadfastly alongside their American allies.
“The Army Aviation’s detachment, assigned under Operational Control to American Combat Aviation Brigades over the past eight years has provided a meaningful enhancement to Australia’s strategic US alliance,” Major General Crane said.
Over the 11 rotations of Army Combat Aviation (three by Aviation Support Element and eight by Rotary Wing Group) Army Chinook helicopters flew in excess of 6000 combat flying hours, carried almost 40,000 personnel and transported in excess of 3600 tonnes of military cargo.
Numerous decorations have been awarded to Australian aircrew over the various deployments including the Medal for Gallantry, Distinguished Service Medal, the Meritorious Unit Citation for the 5th Aviation Regiment, several US Bronze Stars and multiple US Air Medals.
RWG personnel were drawn from across the Army Aviation community, though the majority deployed from the 5th Aviation Regiment in Townsville, home of Army’s Chinook capability.
The aircraft will return home to Australia by Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster Aircraft in the coming month.
The Chinook, a tandem rotor cargo helicopter with a maximum all-up weight of 22727kg provides significant lift capability in high density-altitude conditions, making it well suited to operations in Afghanistan’s harsh environment. Soon to be upgraded to a newer model, the Chinook will continue to provide the Army with a critical capability.
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