17 October 2018
For Gisborne woman Frankie-Lee Murray-Birch, being involved in the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) recent humanitarian aid mission in Indonesia affirmed her decision to serve in the military.
“Helping other people was definitely very rewarding,” Logistics Specialist Leading Aircraftman Murray-Birch said. “It also made me appreciate our life in New Zealand a lot more.”
One of four Air Load Team personnel in the 15-member NZDF contingent, Leading Aircraftman Murray-Birch helped prepare pallets of aid and load them into a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) C-130 Hercules aircraft, for delivery to the quake-ravaged Indonesian city of Palu.
The NZDF contingent and the Hercules formed part of an international air bridge that transported aid supplies and evacuated survivors from Palu.
“We started as early as 4am every day and worked long hours. But it was great knowing that what we were doing helped people,” Leading Aircraftman Murray-Birch said.
The highlights for her were meeting some of the survivors and working with personnel from other countries, particularly Indonesia, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, at the multinational air operations centre in Balikpapan, a port city in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province that is about an hour’s flight from Palu.
“The survivors shook our hands and thanked us as they got off our Herc in Balikpapan. I will never forget the gratitude and goodwill they showed us,” she said.
Although the NZDF had a relatively small team, personnel from other militaries helped to get the job done easily, she said.
“Many hands truly make light work.”
Raised in Gisborne, Leading Aircraftman Murray-Birch joined the Air Force in September 2015.
“From a young age my mind was set on joining the Air Force because I wanted to do a job that makes a difference.”
“The humanitarian aid mission in Indonesia confirmed to me that this is something I really wanted to do.”