I was going through some photos this weekend and found some pics I took during a deployment to Australia, back when I was in the Air Force. It was from when I was stationed on Guam at Andersen Air Force Base. I was assigned to the 43rd OMS squadron.
Around once a month, they would send three B-52’s to the land down under so aircrews could practice their terrain avoiding, low-level flying skills, something they couldn’t really do on Guam. As fate would have it, Australia’s Northern Territory had lots and lots of low-level terrain. Go figure. The deployment, known as a TDY for “temporary duty”, lasted only a few days and from my prospective, was a complete waste of money.
For one thing, I was an electronic countermeasures technician. I worked on the radar detectors and radar jammers used on the B-52. These systems would not even be turned on, let alone used during the four-day deployment. There was absolutely no reason for someone in the ECM shop to go. I remember asking my supervisor why they even send someone from our shop when they don’t use our systems. He told me it was just a perk of the job, every time there was a deployment to Australia, one of us got to go. The fact that we weren’t needed was irrelevant.
The other reason the TDY was a waste of money was because Australia wasn’t all that far from Guam, relatively speaking. The B-52 is meant for long-range attack missions. Case in point, the first shot fired in Desert Storm, also known as the Iraq War 1.0, was from a B-52 that took off from a base in Louisiana. There was absolutely no need to deploy to Australia’s Northern Territory so crews could practice flying at 50-feet above the outback. They could just fly the five hours it took to travel from Guam to Australia, practice not crashing into the ground, and then fly back to Guam.
We flew down to Australia in KC-135 cargo tankers. The boom operator was nice enough to let me lay next to him and watch while he refueled the B-52’s. It’s how I took the above picture.
The TDY lasted all of four days. We settled in on the first day, flew training missions all day the second, had the day off on the third, and on the fourth, we flew back to Guam. On the one day dedicated to the reason for the trip, I sat around and played chess with all the other people there with nothing to do.
As far as Australia goes, I wasn’t really that impressed. We were in Darwin and it reminded me of Oklahoma, only better because it didn’t have any Oklahomans. When I travel to a foreign country, I like to experience something different from the culture I’m familiar with. It’s one of the reasons I enjoyed Korea and Japan so much. The best part of Australia was by far the people. Australians have to be the nicest, friendliest people in the world. They also have the best accent in the world.
The English language sounds no greater to the human ear than when it’s spoken by an Australian. That’s just a fact.