NATION

It’s An Honour To Help Fiji, Says NZDF Member Corporal Mellish

A member of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) who is helping deliver aid supplies to distressed communities within the country has described the scenes of devastation caused by Tropical
10 Apr 2016 10:05
It’s An Honour To Help Fiji, Says NZDF Member Corporal Mellish
Helicopter loadmaster Corporal Aeron Mellish of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s 3 Squadron interacts with children at Viwa Island. Photo: New Zealand Defence Force

A member of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) who is helping deliver aid supplies to distressed communities within the country has described the scenes of devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston as “heartbreaking” and considers it an honour to be able to help the Fijians.

“Seeing people’s entire livelihood destroyed by the cyclone was very hard for me. Meeting many of these people and seeing how they remain positive and happy in such a terrible situation has been a very humbling experience,” said Corporal (CPL) Aeron Mellish, Helicopter loadmaster from the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) 3 Squadron.

“My most memorable experience so far was flying into a village where the houses and school had been badly damaged. The adults all came over to shake our hands and thank us. We gave the children some stickers, and their smiles and laughter made me realise how much our help and presence means to them. It was a great feeling.”

CPL Mellish and her family emigrated to New Zealand’s Taranaki region from Angus county in the east of Scotland six years ago. Encouraged by the service of a long line of relatives who served in the military, she enlisted in the RNZAF in January 2012.

“I always wanted to make a difference in the world and help those less fortunate than myself. The military had always appealed to me in that sense and my passion for aviation and travel pushed me to apply for the Air Force,” the 21-year-old said.

“My family has a long history of military service. Hearing stories of what family members have achieved and experienced helped me decide to join.”

About three weeks before she was deployed here, CPL Mellish was winched by a NH90 helicopter 73 m (240 ft) to a crumbling cliff face to help rescue two tourists stranded on a rock in New Zealand’s South Island. The winds were nearly 100 km/h, the sea was “extremely rough” and there was only about 30 minutes left of daylight in what was her first rescue mission.

“I felt very proud to have completed my first rescue successfully. But it was still very daunting climbing out of the door at such a height with the conditions we were in,” she said.

“My dream of working alongside people from all walks of life has started to be fulfilled in my short time in the Air Force.  It’s been a real honour to be given this chance to support the aid operation in Fiji and I hope to be able to do more of these operations in years to come.”

Two RNZAF NH90 medium utility helicopters are assisting in Fiji’s disaster recovery efforts on their first overseas mission. Since arriving in Suva on March 3, the helicopters have been delivering essential aid supplies, water purification equipment, and sacks of seeds and plant cuttings to cyclone-ravaged communities.

They have also transported New Zealand medical volunteers with Government staff to remote communities.

Source: New Zealand Defence Force

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