Sergeant Lyle Wooller, Helicopter Loadmaster, from the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s 3 Squadron, en route to delivering sacks of seeds and plant cuttings to cyclone-hit Fijian islands.
8 April 2016
For Helicopter Loadmaster Sergeant (SGT) Lyle Wooller, the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) aid operation in Fiji marks the first time he’s been deployed on an overseas mission.
SGT Wooller, who hails from Morrinsville, says “The most rewarding part of this deployment is seeing the Fijians smile when we drop in to hand out aid. The locals are awesome, they are all very keen to help and really appreciative of any help they receive.”
Being one of around 400 personnel currently involved in the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) humanitarian aid operation in Fiji, SGT Wooller said the Fijians’ cheerful outlook and sense of gratitude have impressed him the most.
“Everywhere we go to deliver aid supplies, people come out to shake hands with us and wave us goodbye. In one of the highland villages on the main island of Viti Levu, residents lined up to shake hands with the entire crew,” he said.
Encouraged by his father, SGT Wooller joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) in 2004, six months into his undergraduate course at Waikato University. As Helicopter Loadmaster, his job is to ensure aircraft loads are packed correctly to maintain balance, as well as operating the door guns, rescue hoists and underslung loads of the NH90.
“Normal precautions with landing sites are taken, just like back home. There is debris, damaged buildings, knocked down power lines and animals to consider so beach landings are a good option in most areas,” he said.
Two RNZAF NH90 medium utility helicopters are assisting in Fiji's disaster recovery efforts on their first overseas mission.
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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