24 July 2015
She has flown in a number of Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) aircraft, including in an air trainer that did acrobatic flying, and taken part in an Open Day to promote the Air Force. But for Corporal Chelsea Gihon, nothing beats supporting an ANZAC battle group in Australia’s largest warfighting exercise.
“Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015 is my first multi-national exercise. It also marks the first time the NH90s are deployed overseas so it is exciting to show our capabilities and what the Air Force has to offer,” said the Logistics Specialist from Levin.
CPL Gihon forms part of a 40-member contingent from the RNZAF’s 3 Squadron, based at RNZAF Ohakea, that is taking part in Talisman Sabre 15, the largest warfighting exercise that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) conducts with the US military.
Two of the Squadron’s NH90 helicopters are embedded within the ADF’s 16 Aviation Brigade and operated with six Australian MRH-90 and eight ARH Tiger helicopters and up to 600 US troops that served as the ground force for ‘Battle Group Griffin’.
In Talisman Sabre, “I and two other colleagues provide logistics support to the NH90 maintenance crew. This involves retrieving parts from our pack-up of aircraft spares and meeting orders raised by the technicians. I have also placed several orders to test the freight forward supply chain from New Zealand to a remote field location in Australia,” she explained.
CPL Gihon joined the Air Force in May 2006. She applied when she was on her sixth form year at Levin’s Waiopehu College and was accepted to enlist.
“I’ve always wanted to join so I can pursue a career and travel at the same time,” she said.
When she is not deployed, CPL Gihon works in 3 Squadron’s Forward Support Section to provide logistics support to the Air Force’s NH90 and A109 helicopters.
In 2011, she went on her first overseas deployment as part of the Force Extraction Team tasked to support the drawdown of New Zealand troops from Afghanistan.
“Over a two-week period, I looked after personnel allowances, assisted the Warrant Officer on immigration matters relating to our personnel and helped facilitate the return of equipment back to New Zealand. It was the first time I worked as part of a tri-service team overseas,” she recalled.
Given her experience, she encourages high school students to consider a career in the Air Force. “Joining the Air Force straight from school allows you to transition into training for a specialisation and earn while you learn. The Air Force also offers great opportunities for people who want to travel, play sports and be part of a big team.”