US Airmen fly Down Under

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Phyllis E. Keith
  • PACAF Public Affairs
Two airmen received a unique opportunity when the Military Personnel Exchange Program (MPEP) Asia-Pacific chose them to be among the first enlisted instructors in the program's 40-year history to be stationed at foreign flying squadrons.

Master Sgt. Neil Aronson, a loadmaster with eight years' experience on the C-17 Globemaster III, and Tech. Sgt. Lindsay Moon, an air refueling operator with 11 years experience on the KC-135 Stratotanker, each received orders for 3-year tours to Royal Australian Air Force Base Amberley, Queensland, Australia. The permanent change of station meant they could take their families with them.

When Aronson reported to No. 36th Squadron at Amberley in March 2011, he took over from Senior Master Sgt. Trevor Smith, who was the first Air Force loadmaster to be assigned to a foreign unit through MPEP Asia-Pacific.

Aronson said he applied for the MPEP assignment at Amberley advertised on the Assignment Management System (AMS) while stationed at the 14th Airlift Squadron, Charleston Air Force Base, S.C.

The RAAF was looking for a loadmaster who had evaluator, instructor and airdrop experience.

Aronson, who had spent the first seven years of his Air Force career as a crew chief on the C-9 Nightingale, C-130 Hercules, C-141 Starlifter, and C-17, cross-trained to be a loadmaster, and subsequently worked as a special operations low-level C-17 evaluator loadmaster at the 14th AW before accepting the instructor assignment at Amberley.

"My time at Charleston prepared me for just about any challenges we face as loadmasters," he said.

The RAAF's No. 36th Squadron began operating the C-17 in 2006, and received its sixth and final C-17 in 2012. The timing was perfect for Aronson, who instructs and evaluates the RAAF's loadmasters in air-land and airdrop procedures.

"I feel very lucky to be a part of some exciting things in the RAAF," he said.

Aronson has trained RAAF loadmasters on special operations airdrops as well.
"I instructed the first-ever C-17 boat-drop capability exercise and have authored training instructions for this process," he said.

In addition, he has trained RAAF loadmasters on in-flight personnel airdrop rigging giving their Army long-range aerial capability..

Aronson said the RAAF had a good vetting process of choosing loadmasters--candidates go before a review board as well as psychological testing in order to weed those not suitable for the position. He said once chosen, their loadmasters receive the rank of sergeant, equivalent to a U.S. technical sergeant rank or master sergeant
Aronson said, "This assignment has been a great experience for my family and me. I feel fortunate that we were able to expose our daughter to another culture and travel in a part of the world that I never thought I'd have the chance to see." 

A month after Aronson arrived at Amberley, Moon began his tour at the No. 33rd Squadron. Two months later, June 2011, the RAAF introduced the world's new tanker aircraft-the KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport.

"I knew this opportunity would allow me to use my training and experience to help shape another country's defense capability," Moon said.

Moon was more than qualified for the position. He had spent three years on a flight test team at the 445th Flight Test Squadron, Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. He directly supported air-to-air refueling flight tests with the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Air Force Research Labs (AFRL) Unmanned Air-to-Air Refueling, and other programs.

To prepare himself to be the first operational crew to fly on the new tanker, Moon completed three months of initial cadre at RAAF Base Amberley; at the QANTAS Training Centre at Sydney International Airport, Australia; and at the Airbus Military's Getafe Plant in Madrid, Spain.

Moon said he was aware of the pressure that would come with the high-profile position of being the first ARO instructors for MPEP Asia-Pacific; however, the excitement of going to Australia quickly overshadowed any trepidation he may have had.

"My first role upon arriving at Amberley was to be one of three initial air refueling operators trained on the plane," said Moon. "In turn, I've assisted in developing and validating the training that all future RAAF ARO's will receive."

Moon is currently the NCO in charge of standardization and evaluation for No. 33rd Squadron; he also functions as the simulator program manager.

In the aircraft, Moon performs internal and external preflights to inspect and operate the refueling systems, and to load and unload cargo.

Moon said his experience will segue into the U.S. Air Force developing its new tanker capability--the KC-46A--over the next five years and training with the Australians has improved U.S. ability to function as a multinational force.

"I think the Australian and American ability to work together is a great example to all Asia Pacific and worldwide," he said.

Moon said he has appreciated working with the Australians who stay flexible. "They are very good a tailoring their requirements to their current needs, and understand how those needs may quickly change," he said.

If asked, both Aronson and Moon would say they were just doing their job. Neither would ask to be singled out. They would instead say their achievements are the result of the Airmen they have served with. And they have done this largely in anonymity.

Aronson said working side-by-side with the RAAF has given both countries the ability to operate together globally, whether it be a contingency or a humanitarian mission.

"I know that Asia-Pacific is a vital region and that focus has been put on strengthening and maintaining friendships in the region," said Aronson.