Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 4 2009 Contents 38
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any people in australia,
even within Defence,
may not be aware of
support to operations
and exercises at the
royal malaysian air Force (rmaF)
Base at Butterworth in malaysia.
The RAAF took up residence at Butterworth
in 1958 before Butterworth was handed over to
Malaysia in the late 1980s. During this time, the
base has remained the location of one of the very
few permanent operational overseas units in the
ADF—the Air Force’s No 324 Combat Support
RMAF Butterworth’s Executive Officer,
Squadron Leader (SQNLDR) Timothy Anderson
said that although a constant flow of deployments
through Butterworth on a weekly basis provides
324CSS with the majority of its workload, regional
contingency and crisis is where the unit provides
one of its greatest contributions to Australia’s
“Nowhere was this more evident than in
the immediate aftermath of the Asian tsunami in
2004,” SQNLDR Anderson said.
“Butterworth, and 324CSS, became the centre
of gravity for the relief and evacuation operations
that followed the devastation.”
Even though parts of nearby Penang Island
were awash from the tsunami, 324CSS supported
a constant stream of RAAF aircraft delivering
supplies and evacuating the displaced and the
injured from the region.
“At its peak, the unit was housing and feeding
in excess of 700 people at a time as they waited
their turn to be processed through the evacuation
handling centre,” SQNLDR Anderson said.
“For the men and women who work at 324CSS
this is often a once in a lifetime opportunity to
experience an overseas posting.
“While the work is challenging and sometimes
unpredictable, requiring high degrees of flexibility
and initiative, it is still a highly sought after posting
across the Air Force.”
SQNLDR Anderson said that tens of thousands
of Australian servicemen and women have passed
through Butterworth on posting and deployment
during the 51 years, as well as thousands of
spouses and children.
“As well as delivering significant operational
outcomes for Defence, all of them have taken away
with them a new understanding and appreciation
of the culture of this unique country,” SQNLDR
There have been several changes to the nature
and conduct of operations during the past 50 years,
and this is reflected in the way combat support to
air operations is now conducted at Butterworth and
across the region.
“Whereas once there were in excess of 3,000
Australian uniformed personnel, the number now is
much closer to 50,” SQNLDR Anderson said.
Twenty-five years ago, the RAAF maintained
frontline fighter squadrons of the Mirage IIIO at
Butterworth, where today there are no permanently
assigned RAAF flying squadrons. Instead,
Butterworth has become a key ADF deployment
base for multilateral exercises under the auspices
of the Five Power Defence Arrangements with the
UK, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia.
“In any given year the base hosts assets from
all of the key force element groups in the RAAF,
including air combat, maritime patrol and airlift
aircraft,” SQNLDR Anderson said.
The job of supporting these deployments
falls to 324CSS, whose mission is to represent
Australian national interests in South East Asia by
providing deployed combat and domestic support.
Although in terms of permanently posted
RAAF personnel the unit is quite small, it has
developed a highly integrated combat support
model that utilises a unique mix of RAAF personnel
and locally employed civilians as well as support
from the RMAF.
“This model is employed across the combat
support spectrum at Butterworth, incorporating
refuelling operations, logistics support, air load
and unload, personnel services, force protection,
messing and catering, and health support,”
SQNLDR Anderson said.
“This support is delivered not only to
deploying flying squadrons but also to the
Australian Army’s permanent Rifle Company
detachment at Butterworth.”
324CSS remains a cornerstone of RAAF and
ADF operational capability in the region, and the
men and women who work at this permanently
deployed unit aim to keep it that way, and to see
out another 50 years of combat support to air
operations in the region.
By Squadron Leader Timothy Anderson
At its peak, the unit was housing
and feeding in excess of 700
people at a time as they waited
their turn to be processed through
the evacuation handling centre.
- RMAF Butterworth’s Executive Officer SQNLDR Timothy Anderson
support to operations
aBoVe: group photo of 3 squadron on exercise in
Butterworth, malaysia for exercise Bersama shield in 2008.
Photo: Aircraftman Glen McCarthy
oPPosITe: 3 squadron F/a-18 hornets taxi into their
hangars at rmaF Base Butterworth during exercise
Bersama shield. an 11 squadron aP-3c orion in the
foreground awaits a sortie. Photo: Aircraftman Glen McCarthy
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