Rescue heroics all part of a stellar career
Rescuing people in need has been a recurring theme of Warrant Officer Randolph Jachimowicz’s career in the Air Force.
Over the past 41 years, he has brought people out of disaster areas and located a missing seven-year-old boy, as well as flying with Australia’s leaders and royalty.
“From flying a child in a humidicrib out of the Kiribiti Islands to flying the Queen, the people I’ve carried go from one extreme to the other,” Warrant Officer Jachimowicz said.
Working as a loadmaster, he has also helped deliver new capabilities into RAAF service including the C-27J Spartan and C-17A Globemaster transport aircraft.
In recognition of 40 years of service, Warrant Officer Jachimowicz was presented his Federation Star and Fifth Clasp to his Defence Long Service Medal at RAAF Base Richmond on August 27.
The Federation Star represents a veritable lifetime of experience since he left the Adelaide suburb of Magill to join the Air Force in November 1979.
Enlisting as a steward, Warrant Officer Jachimowicz had ambitions of becoming a military working dog handler.
“Given you had to be 21 to undertake security work, I was told I could remuster when I was old enough,” Warrant Officer Jachimowicz said.
Instead, he chose to become a flight steward on the Boeing 707 jet transport, serving with No. 33 Squadron from 1984 to 1988.
He carried everyone from Defence personnel to prime ministers and the royal family, and even flew to the Soviet Union with then Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen.
The time at No. 33 Squadron influenced his decision to become a loadmaster.
“I always had a keen interest in helicopters and C-130 aircraft,” Warrant Officer Jachimowicz said.
“After many hours of conversations with loadmasters at the time, I decided to apply for loadmaster in 1988. I was the only successful candidate.”
He was offered a position with Air Force’s fleet of Iroquois and Squirrel helicopters before they transitioned to the Army in 1989.
“By December 1989 I graduated as a loadmaster on the UH-1H Iroquois and AS350B Squirrel helicopters at No. 5 Squadron in Canberra,” Warrant Officer Jachimowicz said.
“In 1990, No. 5 Squadron had been disbanded, and became the Australian Defence Force Helicopter School.
“My time on helicopters was a highlight – I really enjoy that environment. It was such a good way to start my loadmaster career.”
As one of two RAAF loadmasters at the school, his job was to assist training Navy and Army helicopter pilots but missions were also flown to help the civilian community.
This included rescue missions for firefighters in the Blue Mountains and residents stranded by floodwaters in central NSW.
Ordinarily, the UH-1H could carry eight passengers and three crew.
“During the Nyngan floods in 1990 on Anzac Day, we were the first military helicopter to begin evacuating the town from the railway station,” Warrant Officer Jachimowicz said.
“In one lift I recall we had 19 people on board and two dogs.”
In June 1993, Warrant Officer Jachimowicz was on a Squirrel helicopter when seven-year-old Richard Connolly was spotted. He had been missing for 20 hours in bushland near Uriarra Crossing in the ACT.
“At first I thought he might have been one of the search party,” Warrant Officer Jachimowicz said.
“I soon realised we had just spotted him, we landed to pick him up, and not long after we were handing him back to his parents safe and sound.”
In 1995, Warrant Officer Jachimowicz posted into a ground role at RAAF Base Richmond, and in 1999 he commenced loadmaster training on the C-130 Hercules.
He arrived at No. 37 Squadron as the Hercules fleet was embarking on one of the busiest periods of sustained operations in RAAF history – a tempo that continues today.
“During my time at No. 37 Squadron, I was fortunate to be cross-trained between C-130E and H-model aircraft,” Warrant Officer Jachimowicz said.
“With the retirement of the C-130E and the introduction of the C-130J-30 as its replacement, I underwent another conversion course and remained with No. 37 Squadron.”
Warrant Officer Jachimowicz has supported Defence deployments to East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as humanitarian missions like Operation Philippines Assist in 2013.
On the latter mission, he was again carrying civilians out of danger after Tacloban City had been destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan.
“It’s hard on the family with deployments – my wife has had to be mum and dad at home at the same time,” Warrant Officer Jachimowicz said.
His time at RAAF Base Richmond has also seen him bring new capabilities online.
In 2006, he joined the Projects Team at Air Movements Training and Development Unit (AMTDU), which was supporting the C-17A Globemaster’s introduction to service.
The Globemaster had a cargo bay with three times the capacity of a Hercules, and the project team worked to ensure it could safely carry every potential load needed by Defence.
The project team often worked in the field, such as when it deployed to South Africa with a RAAF C-17A in May 2008 to collect two Puma helicopters tobe used on a relief mission in response to the devastation of Cyclone Nargis in Burma.
In 2014, he helped introduce another new capability as one of the first loadmasters at No. 35 Squadron to train on the C-27J Spartan.
“This aircraft is a good ‘in-between’ airlift capability for Defence – it’s something with the utility and flexibility to go do aeromedical evacuation, and to go do search and rescues,” Warrant Officer Jachimowicz said.
“There’s a lot of jobs where you only need to carry a small number of people and go a great distance, whether that’s in Australia or around Pacific Islands.”
In mid-2015, he was on the first C-27J delivery flight to Australia, a journey from Texas to Alaska, across to Japan, and then to Guam, Papua New Guinea, and finally Australia.
Today, Warrant Officer Jachimowicz is posted to No. 84 Wing’s Standards Section at RAAF Base Richmond.
“Overall I’ve got absolutely no regrets in my career – I’ve had an absolutely outstanding 40 years, in terms of travelling the world and enjoying everything I’ve done,” he said.
A lifetime spent flying to help those in need around the globe, however, could not have been accomplished without help from home.
“I wouldn’t have made it where I am without this family support,” Warrant Officer Jachimowicz said.
“It doesn’t often get said, but without my wife, Angela, and my kids’ support, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.”