28 November 2013
Aircraftman Robbie Kelly, a former Waikato stable-hand was part of the 24-member 40 Squadron detachment delivering aid supplies and evacuating Typhoon Haiyan survivors
Irish-born Aircraftman Robbie Kelly considers himself a true-blue New Zealander. But he draws a line when it comes to rugby.
“I love the All Blacks and I root for them when they are not playing against Ireland,” said AC Kelly, who migrated to New Zealand from Dublin with his parents and elder sister Pauline when he was two.
Understandably, the November 24 match in Dublin, where the All Blacks made history by snatching a 24-22 victory and completing a perfect season, was pure agony for him.
AC Kelly, who is currently in the central Philippines city of Cebu as part of the 24-member 40 Squadron detachment delivering aid supplies and evacuating Typhoon Haiyan survivors from devastated areas in the eastern Philippines, kept tabs of the match online.
“The Irish had a 22-7 half-time lead. We were seconds away from history. If they had sustained that in the second half, It would have been Ireland’s first ever victory over the All Blacks,” he related with obvious disappointment.
“Had they won, I was ready to replace the New Zealand flag atop the tent of No.40 Squadron with an Irish flag,” he added.
Even if that meant provoking the rest of the New Zealand contingent? “Oh yeah,” he answered right off the bat.
Like other members of the New Zealand contingent, AC Kelly helps load and offload 90-lb sacks of rice and tinned food and other aid supplies from the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) C-130. His main responsibility though is to provide communications support for the New Zealand contingent and to ensure secure and reliable communications back to New Zealand.
“It does look quite sad, seeing the long lines of people outside the airport wanting to get on the plane. Most of them have nothing left except the clothes on their backs,” he noted.
When he is not deployed on operations, AC Kelly works at the Air Operations Communications Centre at Whenuapai Air Force Base. He worked as a stable hand at Cambridge Jockey Club for six months before joining the RNZAF in January 2011.
“I joined the Air Force because I like the lifestyle and I wanted to work as part of a team. We did visit Ohakea quite a lot when my sister and I were kids, and I loved watching the planes fly. Growing up, I realised that the military lifestyle appealed to me as well.”
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