20 August 2014
Leading Aircraftsman Stephen Zeilstra conducts maintenance on the engine of a fuel truck at Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin during Exercise Pitch Black 2014.
A Wairoa man, Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Stephen Zeilstra is a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) ground support equipment technician and is part of an Anzac team keeping fuel trucks ready to deliver mission-essential fuel on Exercise Pitch Black 2014.
LAC Zeilstra, a former Wairoa College student, is an airman in the Auckland-based RNZAF Maintenance Support Squadron. He currently has a key role in keeping the aircraft and equipment operating for 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 will involve 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.
Exercise Pitch Black 2014 is LAC Zeilstra’s first overseas exercise with the NZDF and his first time working with the RAAF. He said that participating in Exercise Pitch Black 2014 has reinforced for him the benefits of choosing a career as a ground support equipment technician as well as providing the chance to build relationships and observe the RAAF approach to providing ground support equipment services.
“The Air Force has provided me with the ability to train for and gain internationally recognised technician and licensing courses that are highly transferrable outside of the Air Force. You’re provided with all of the tooling equipment associated with your trade while being paid to gain qualifications and log practical experience on the workshop floor.
“I’m putting these skills to good use over here, working on the Australian fuel tankers and pumping equipment which is different to what we use. This job plays an important role in this exercise – the pilots wouldn’t be flying if the tankers weren’t operational and capable of delivering fuel to their aircraft,” LAC Zeilstra said.
LAC Zeilstra will return to his Auckland base and be back on the workshop floor, in late August.
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