‘Coach’ keeps players on the paddock
Settled on farmland in Oakey, Queensland, was a small team from 114 Mobile Control and Reporting Unit (114MCRU) supporting Exercise Lightning Storm.
Deployed away from their home base at RAAF Base Darwin for six weeks, personnel provided coverage of the local airspace for the aircraft participating in the exercise scenarios overhead from RAAF Bases Williamtown and Amberley.
114MCRU air battle manager Flying Officer Morgen Parry-Grass said the specialist team consisted of communications and electronics technicians, cooks, network technicians, air surveillance operators and ground support equipment technicians (GSETECHs) deployed to support the training activity at the remote location.
“Our road convoy from Darwin with 10 vehicles took five days and the set-up of the radars, radio antennae and satellite communications equipment was another week,” Flying Officer Parry-Grass said.
“If you compare our role to a football team, the service 114MCRU provides is acting as the coach.
“We feed local airspace information and data to contribute to the overall air picture [the field] and direct the aircraft [players] accordingly from our operations cabin through the controllers we are communicating with back home in Darwin.”
As part of the unit’s ground capabilities, 114MCRU also drove its BlueJay truck to Oakey in support of Exercise Lightning Storm.
The truck is a highly technical and unique vehicle that can be parked in ground black spots to amplify and repeat radar signals and data transmission.
“We are a fully mobile unit that can deploy air surveillance and air battle management capabilities at short notice to regional and remote parts of Australia,” Flying Officer Parry-Grass said.
The regular travel was one of the perks for 114MCRU GSETEC Sergeant Greg Shields.
“One of the benefits of being posted to 114MCRU is that we are constantly testing our military skills. In other words, we train how we fight, which means we regularly deploy on training activities,” Sergeant Shields said.
Personnel also adopted COVID-safe practices, such as maintaining social distancing and regularly cleaning the site, demonstrating their adaptability in a changing environment.
Overall, the unit’s success was attributed to a focus on encouraging all personnel to be leaders and strive for excellence.
“Our unit pride is really strong and individuals at all ranks are given responsibilities above and beyond what is generally expected at their level,” Sergeant Shields said.
“This was demonstrated again through the successful training outcomes achieved by personnel during this deployment.”
114MCRU is part of Surveillance and Response Group’s No. 41 Wing which delivers precision air defence and air battlespace management for the joint force.