Helicopter Loadmaster Corporal Aeron Mellish of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s 3 Squadron interacts with children at Viwa Island, which is part of a group of islands that make up Fiji’s western border.
8 April 2016
Corporal (CPL) Aeron Mellish, who is helping deliver aid supplies to distressed communities in Fiji describes the scenes of devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston as “heart-breaking” but considers it an honour to help the Fijians.
“Although seeing people's entire livelihood destroyed by the cyclone was hard for me, meeting many of these people and seeing how they remain positive in such a terrible situation has been a very humbling experience.”
“My most memorable experience so far is flying into a village where the houses and a school had been badly damaged. The adults all came over to shake our hands and thank us. We gave the children some stickers. Their smiles and laughter made me realise how much our help and presence means to them. It was a great feeling,” the 21-year-old said.
CPL Mellish’s role as a Helicopter Loadmaster for the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) 3 Squadron, sees her ensuring aircraft loads are packed correctly to maintain balance, as well as operating the door guns, rescue hoists and underslung loads of the NH90.
CPL Mellish and her family immigrated to New Zealand’s Taranaki region from the east of Scotland six years ago. Encouraged by the service of a long line of relatives who served in the military, she enlisted in the RNZAF in January 2012.
“Hearing stories of what family members have achieved and experienced helped me decide to join. I always wanted to make a difference in the world and help those less fortunate than myself.
“The military had always appealed to me in that sense and my passion for aviation and travel pushed me to apply for the Air Force,” said CPL Mellish.
“My dream of working alongside people from all walks of life has started to be fulfilled in my short time since joining the Air Force. It's a real honour to be given this chance to support the aid operation in Fiji and I hope to be able to do more of these operations in years to come.”
Since arriving in Suva on 3 March, the helicopters have been delivering essential aid supplies, water purification equipment, sacks of seeds and plant cuttings to cyclone-ravaged communities. They have also transported New Zealand medical volunteers as well as Fiji government staff to remote communities.
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