ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE BASE DARWIN, Australia --
Immersing oneself in a foreign culture is something many U.S. Air Force service members stationed overseas are accustomed to doing. The mission of the USAF is to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace, and every day Airmen stationed overseas not only accomplish that mission, but also build upon the partnerships established between the U.S. and its allies.
The Military Personnel Exchange Program offers U.S. Air Force active-duty members the chance to integrate into ally and partner nation air forces while abroad.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jonathan Haas, Royal Australian Air Force 33rd Squadron KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport air-refueling operator and Exercise Pitch Black 2018 participant, has spent the last two years serving as an instructor and strengthening the relationship between the USAF and RAAF in this three-year position.
“The program is a Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs initiative to increase interoperability amongst coalition partners and other countries,” Haas said. “My purpose in the exchange on the KC-30A is to increase interoperability and train RAAF to where they can merge with the USAF tankers in the future if they have to.”
Based out of RAAF Base Amberley, Australia, Haas and his students are participating in Exercise Pitch Black 2018 (PBK18), a biennial three-week multi-national large force employment exercise conducted from both RAAF Base Darwin and RAAF Base Tindal. Exercise PBK18 hosts more than 4,000 personnel and approximately 140 aircraft from 16 partner and allied nations across the globe.
“Exercise Pitch Black is a great opportunity for all participants involved, including my students,” said Haas. “They are gaining experience on aircraft that are not normally here. We’re refueling USAF F-16s and [Indian] Sukhoi Su-30MKIs from a RAAF KC-30A with a USAF boom operator.”
With 15 years of experience on a KC-135 Stratotanker, Haas works to get his students trained and qualified so that by the end of their one-year course, the RAAF students will be able to perform duties such as mid-air refueling, as well as run procedures, checklists, and load multiple aircraft.
These newly trained individuals will become what the equivalent of a USAF boom operator is.
“Master Sgt. Haas has brought a wealth of air-to-air refueling experience to the 33rd Squadron as we continue to build our Air Refueling Operator workforce,” says RAAF Flight Lt. Ben Howlett, 33rd Squadron air refueling operator. “Operating in an instructor role, he has increased our capability to qualify and train [Air Refueling Operators], while also providing input to improving our procedures and safety in operating air-to-air refueling in particular boom operations, which is new to the RAAF.”
RAAF Base Amberley is the only location an USAF boom operator is on exchange in the world. Haas is the third person to ever have had this opportunity, and he has one year remaining in his position in Australia.
“The exchange program as a whole allows USAF to continue building partnerships, and I’m honored to have helped this effort with the RAAF,” said Haas. “They are two completely different air forces but have similar readiness goals and objectives, and I hope to leave this squadron a little better and a little safer than when I got here.”