12 October 2018
Corporal Toni Thompson hit the ground running as a trainee Air Loadmaster when she was sent to Indonesia last week to support the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) humanitarian aid mission after a devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Having started the Air Loadmaster trade only three months ago, Corporal Thompson is still in training.
“The mission to Indonesia was my first flight as an Air Loadmaster and also my first deployment on a humanitarian aid and disaster relief operation,” she said.
“It was a great opportunity to help people in need, as well as learn more about my new trade.”
One of three Air Loadmasters in the 15-member NZDF contingent, Corporal Thompson helped evacuate about 160 survivors of last month’s earthquake and tsunami on Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island.
She also played a role in delivering about 70 tonnes of aid to the quake-ravaged Indonesian city of Palu.
One of the highlights for her was the first evacuation of survivors undertaken by the NZDF on 5 October.
“The evacuees were so relieved to know they were getting out of the devastation in Palu. Through hand signals, they showed us how happy and grateful they were,” Corporal Thompson said.
“Together with the Indonesian soldiers they cheered us, shook our hands and took our photos.
“The kids were very excited to get on our Herc but were so well-behaved. They were great passengers.”
Born and raised in Timaru, Corporal Thompson had set her mind on joining the Royal New Zealand Air Force since she was young. She was a sports captain when she was a student at Craighead Diocesan School and flies gliders as a hobby.
“The opportunity to go places and the excitement of flying made me want to pursue a career in the Air Force. You could not ask for a more exciting job,” she said.
Her first overseas deployment was a rewarding experience.
“Now I am excited to see what’s coming up for me in the future,” she said.