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Keeping air force rotors spinning in Timor Leste

Corporal Jason Riddell on patrol in downtown Dili.

29 May 2007

Halfway into his tour of duty in Timor Leste, Blenheim airman Jason Riddell is putting all of his handyman skills to use.

The 32-year-old former Marlborough Boys College student is working as a Machinist with the New Zealand Defence Force and is responsible for maintaining the two Air Force Iroquois helicopters deployed with the 170-strong contingent in Dili.

“Coming up with new and innovative ways to improve the choppers and the camp using limited materials is interesting,” Corporal Riddell said. “Fortunately we have a team of guys and girls who are always prepared to jump in and help.”

His role in Timor Leste involves maintaining Iroquois parts to ensure the helicopters can keep flying. His work has helped ensure the Iroquois have not missed a single flight since they were deployed to the South East Asian country in April.

Corporal Riddell has deployed to Timor Leste with the Air Force Iroquois once before, working with 3 Squadron out of Suai in 2002.

“The temperature and humidity hasn’t changed,” he jokes.

Corporal Riddell is due to return to New Zealand next month at the completion of his three-month deployment.

New Zealand has contributed to various United Nations and peacekeeping efforts in Timor-Leste since 1999.  The New Zealand Defence Force’s commitment to Timor-Leste at present consists of more than 170 Defence personnel and two helicopters serving with the Combined Joint Task Force, as well as two Military Liaison Officers serving with the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).