New captain blazes trail for women in deployment
A SUNSHINE Coast Flight Lieutenant has soared into the history books while on deployment to combat a terrorist threat overseas.
Coast resident Hayley Moulds has become the first female pilot to captain an Air Force No. 33 Squadron KC-30A multi-role tanker transport during her service in the Middle East.
Flt-Lt Moulds recently completed her deployment on Operation Okra, which is the defence force's contribution to the international coalition against Daesh, otherwise known as ISIL, in Iraq and Syria.
Flt-Lt Moulds said her role was to operate the KC-30A through the Arabian Gulf into Iraq, providing air-to-air refuelling to the coalition aircraft.
"We work with our own E7-A Wedgetail aircraft and provide fuel to the United States, France, Germany and other nations to help them achieve their mission in the Middle East," she said.
"We are one tanker in a sky of multiple, but you are given the opportunity to work with numerous countries on a daily basis, all contributing to changing the outcome of the flight.
"It's rewarding as a pilot to be given that opportunity and especially as a captain."
Flt-Lt Moulds said the coronavirus pandemic had changed the operating environment, as travel restrictions were still in place across the globe.
"COVID-19 has crumpled the aviation industry and the route we usually follow up the Gulf has become quiet," she said.
Flt-Lt Moulds said her deployment was a memorable experience, impacting her in ways she didn't expect.
"It has highlighted the power of people banding together when times are tougher than expected and the resilience in individuals," she said.
Approximately 780 Australian Defence Force personnel have deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Okra, including Flt-Lt Moulds.
These personnel make up the Air Task Group, the Special Operations Task Group and Task Group Taji.
The KC-30A aircraft also plays an important role in military operations.
It can remain 1800km from its home base, with 50 tonnes of fuel available to offload for up to four hours.
In its transport role, the KC-30A is capable of carrying 270 passengers.
It comes with underfloor cargo compartments, which can accommodate 34,000kg of military and civilian cargo pallets and containers.