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A C-130 Hercules aircraft from No. 40 Squadron and 47 personnel of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) are in Alexandria, Louisiana taking part in this year’s Exercise Green Flag 21, along with the US Air Force, US Army and the Italian Air Force.  

Exercise Green Flag is a recurring tactical transport exercise in the US which simulates combat operations to provide realistic training for aircrew, maintenance personnel and supporting units. The exercise environment is modelled on real world deployments crews could be expected to operate in with coalition partners. 

The crews are put through their paces during the exercise and are provided feedback throughout from specialist Joint Readiness Trainers from participating nations. 

The Commanding Officer of No. 40 Squadron, Wing Commander Lisa D’Oliveira, who is the detachment commander for the exercise, said that it is great to be back after several years’ absence. This is the first Green Flag to host international crews since COVID-19 emerged. 

“The last time we came to Green Flag was in 2017, but we missed the 2018 and 2019 events due to other priorities. Then last year, of course, COVID-19 prevented attendance,” she said.

“It’s a really valuable and rewarding programme, and exciting to be part of - we experience a full suite of tactical training, such as using night vision goggles, low-level flying and air drops, landing in austere environments, simulated missile attacks and fighter evasion drills.

“This is the sort of readiness training which not only builds and sharpens the specific combat skills involved but offers flow-on benefits in handling other tasks we undertake, such as Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief flights, and the recent overnight flight to Antarctica to bring an injured person back to New Zealand, for which we needed night vision goggles. 

“During that mission, on the way back from McMurdo, we reached the milestone of 150,000 flying hours for our C-130H fleet, and it’s fantastic that we were able to mark that achievement on a national tasking and go on to attend a major exercise like Green Flag, further demonstrating the versatility of our fleet.”

The exercise runs until 25 July, after which the detachment will return to New Zealand and go through the required 14-days isolation.

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