19 August 2014
Sergeant Wai Paenga at the Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin during Exercise Pitch Black 14.
From the fuel farm to fast jets, via a fleet of fuel tankers, Hamilton woman Sergeant (SGT) Wai Paenga is leading a team of Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Aviation Refuellers who are pumping 2.9 million litres of fuel per week into the aircraft at Exercise Pitch Black 2014.
SGT Paenga, a former Sacred Heart Girls’ College pupil, serves in the RNZAF 209 Squadron Aviation Fuel Section. She is in Darwin participating in Exercise Pitch Black 2014, which is the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) largest multi-national combat air training exercise of the year.
The three-week exercise aims to foster multi-national partnerships and co-operation and has brought military forces from six nations to Australia’s Northern Territory. The exercise involves a combination of day and night flying and provides the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) with an opportunity to practise deployment and integration of ground support personnel into coalition environments.
SGT Paenga is no stranger to fuelling fast jets with the RAAF. Two years ago she participated in Exercise Pitch Black 2012. Fast jets are also not the only aircraft SGT Paenga has supported overseas - operational deployments with the NZDF have seen her refuelling helicopters in Afghanistan and Timor-Leste.
SGT Paenga is happy to be back at RAAF Base Darwin supporting Exercise Pitch Black 14, and working with a wide range of aircraft and personnel from the participating nations.
“It’s great being back on Pitch Black and working with the Australian tanker section, pumping the large quantities of fuel required by the aircraft. It’s very much a team environment here; the crews working on the aircraft are always happy to see us and help take our equipment to their aircraft which helps speed up the refuelling process, getting the aircraft back in the air and back to their mission faster,” said SGT Paenga.
SGT Paenga will return to her Ohakea base in late August, before heading down to Linton Military Camp where she will coach the RNZAF netball team in the NZDF inter-services netball tournament in the first week of September.
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