From Motueka to the Middle East

Sgt Joe D'Ath
SGT Joe D’ath

10 December 2015

Sergeant (SGT) Joe D’ath of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) worked in 50 degree-plus heat almost every day for the past five months as he supported one of the New Zealand Defence Force’s significant missions in the Middle East.

“This was the first time I deployed overseas on an operation and I was very keen to be a part of it. I’ve always loved aviation and military aircraft in particular,” said SGT D’ath, who formed part of a 53-member detachment deployed to support a RNZAF P-3K2 Orion surveillance aircraft on a 16-month operation.

The Orion and the supporting detachment worked as part of the Combined Maritime Forces — a 30-nation naval partnership that seeks to defeat terrorism, promote maritime security, and prevent piracy and trafficking of people and drugs.

The Aircraft Technician and former student of Garin College in Nelson, was unfazed with the heat as he was living his childhood dream to fix military aircraft.

“A typical working day is hot and most of us start working at 5am when the temperature would be 30 degrees or more. This usually rose to around 40 degrees by the time the aircraft left. When the aircraft returned in the afternoon, the temperature would be in the high 40s or low 50s leaving the aircraft too hot to touch.”

SGT D’ath joined the RNZAF straight out of high school in 2004 and is part of No.5 Squadron. His parents served in the RNZAF briefly, and both his maternal and paternal grandparents also served during both World Wars.

“Joining the Air Force is the best decision I ever made and I still love the challenge after almost 12 years. Travelling with the aircraft is also an amazing experience. I have rarely been to the same place twice and each location adds another challenge, especially if we need to do some maintenance. One time, I had to track down a crane on a Pacific island.

“I love aviation so any chance to fly somewhere or be where there are lots of military aircraft is awesome. I have made friends for life and have been all over the world, and believe the RNZAF really does make a difference in New Zealand and overseas,” he said.


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This page was last reviewed on 10 December 2015.