USAF Honors RAAF Air Refuellers


Two Royal Australian Air Force aircraft refuellers have been lauded by their United States counterparts for their contribution to coalition operations in the Middle East.

In six months of deployment, Sergeant Kane O’Connor and Leading Aircraftman Shane Brown supplied more than 530 aircraft with almost 27 million litres of fuel, which is equivalent to filling about 410,000 cars. 

Technical Sergeant Tyronne Bohannon of the United States Air Force said that was more than the American refuellers. 

Sergeant O’Connor and Leading Aircraftman Brown’s work had allowed coalition aircraft to maintain the fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria during a critical period, he said.   

“When we have been short of people on a shift, these guys stepped up and helped out to achieve the mission. They really did their part and then some. They even beat us at our own competition,” Technical Sergeant Bohannon said.

USAF refuellers presented Sergeant O’Connor and Leading Aircraftman Brown with a ‘title belt’ for their achievement. 

But despite the accolades, the dynamic duo is not resting on its laurels.

Sergeant O’Connor and Leading Aircraftman Brown won ‘Runner of the Month’ recently for most trips to refuel aircraft, beating 50 of their USAF colleagues.

Sergeant O’Connor was awarded ‘Pumper of the Month’, two months in a row. 

He said it was an honour to be recognised by the USAF: 

“At the moment we are the only Royal Australian Air Force ground crew members responsible for providing fuel to aircraft in a deployed environment. We are doing what we always do, but this time it is in support of not just Australian assets but the whole coalition team,” Sergeant O’Connor said.

Leading Aircraftman Brown said refuelling the USAF F-22 stealth fighter and US Secretary of Defense General James Mattis’ aircraft during a recent visit to the Middle East were highlights of his deployment.

Sergeant O’Connor and Leading Aircraftman Brown are deployed on Operation Accordion at Australia’s main air operations base in the Middle East.

They work for the Expeditionary Airbase Operations Unit, which supports operations Accordion, Okra, Highroad and Manitou. 

There are almost 1000 Australian Defence Force personnel deployed on operations in the Middle East region.

This article was published on November 12, 2018 by the Australian Department of Defence.