The 14th tri-service Rotation of the Heron Detachment at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan has handed over to a new team after five months deployed to Operation SLIPPER.
The Transfer of Authority from Wing Commander Matthew Bowers, Commanding Officer Rotation 14 to Wing Commander Stephen Parsons, Commanding Officer Rotation 15 was completed on 1 August 2014.
The Heron Remotely Piloted Aircraft mission was extended in December 2013 to provide real-time Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance to ISAF Regional Command-South during the final transition of security responsibility to Afghan National Security Forces and April’s Afghan Presidential elections.
The Heron mission has subsequently been extended to support ISAF until the end of 2014.
Wing Commander Bowers said the aircraft and the 35 Australian personnel from Air Force, Navy and Army had maintained the capability’s strong reputation for professionalism and dependability during a busy deployment.
“The personnel on Rotation 14 have continued the highly professional work of the rotations that have gone before them,” he said.
“The Australian capability has a fine reputation among our American and other Coalition partners here in ISAF as a result of our can-do attitude and the operation of this aircraft.
“From the first days supporting ISAF’s mission in Uruzgan, and continuing with support to Regional Command-South, Heron ensured commanders on the ground had the information they needed to enhance the protection of their troops.”
Wing Commander Bowers said the Heron had excelled in its role to provide high resolution Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance in support of Regional Command-South in Afghanistan.
Wing Commander Bowers was awarded a Bronze Star Medal from Commanding General Regional Command South, Major General Michael Bills for his command of Heron.
“Sometimes we are the only Unmanned Aerial System flying in this region and we’ll be often called upon to get overhead and provide information back to Coalition partners.
“This Bronze Star Medal is in recognition of the outstanding performance of my professional team.”
Despite a heavy workload, Rotation 14 also raised more than $21,000 for Legacy from fundraising efforts including a beard growing project and the Dawn-to-Dusk spin bike ride.
More than 455 Air Force, Navy and Army personnel have deployed to Heron during its 14 rotations to Operation SLIPPER.