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First medals in over a decade for No. 3 Squadron

Royal New Zealand Air Force's No. 3 Squadron’s work in Solomon Islands last year has earned them medallic recognition.

15 April, 2024

Nearly 100 medals have been awarded to personnel of No. 3 Squadron for their support to Solomon Islands during the 2023 Pacific Games.

A Rotary Wing Task Unit (RWTU), flying 2 NH90 helicopters, were part of a joint Australian, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Fijian Task Force assisting the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force with security duties during the Games in Honiara during November.

The Task Unit flew a total of 66 hours during 45 flights, providing medical and logistics tasking.

The deployment also gave crews the opportunity to practise integration and flight deck training with the USNS Mercy; a 1000-bed hospital ship providing medical support to the Solomon Islands.

At a medal ceremony last month personnel received the New Zealand Operational Service Medal and the New Zealand General Service Medal 2002 (Solomon Islands).

The latter medal is awarded for service in Solomon Islands towards the maintenance of stability and resilience of the country. The most recent criteria is service since December 2021, following the riots of November 2021.

The last time a No. 3 Squadron deployment qualified for medallic recognition was in 2008, when deployed personnel received the New Zealand General Service Medal 2002 (Timor-Leste). On that deployment, No. 3 Squadron served in Timor-Leste from April 2006 to October 2008.

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Flight Lieutenant Liam Barrack, who was on the recent Solomon Islands deployment, says they were dealing with many different organisations and officials of multiple backgrounds. Tasks ranged from familiarisation flights with Australian Defence Force personnel to transporting medical personnel to outer islands.

“We were there primarily to provide a contingency force for any short-notice security tasks, and what we achieved ensured our partnership with Solomon Islands remained strong,” he says.

“In other situations our choppers might have been integrated as part of an Australian RWTU, but given the Australians are no longer operating their MRH-90s, it was just us. We had a pretty diverse range of RNZAF trades represented too, all part of the system that gets the job done. Aircraft Technicians, Avionics Technicians, Communications and Information Systems Technicians, Logistics Personnel, Pilots, Helicopter Loadmasters, Aviation Fuel Specialists, Intelligence Personnel, Security Forces Personnel and their Military Working Dogs; all with their part to play.”

He says one of the highlights was working closely with the Australian Army.

“The chance to integrate with a bigger military was great to experience. We see their attitude, we live in the same space, share meals, beat them at volleyball, and get to see how they operate. It was also great to visit the USNS Mercy and share stories and swap patches with American sailors, while also conducting some really valuable aero-medical evacuation training for the ship and our flight crews.

“These deployments allow us to see different militaries, different cultures, all at work to achieve the same goal.”