Minister for Defence, Kevin Andrews, says he was honoured to accompany Prime Minister Tony Abbott during his visit to Iraq and the Middle East Region this week.
“This was my first opportunity as Minister for Defence to visit Australian Defence Force personnel deployed on operations and I was deeply impressed by their professionalism in carrying out often extremely dangerous tasks in the service of this country,” Mr Andrews said.
During the visit Mr Andrews accompanied the Prime Minister in a meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Abadi and reinforced Australia’s commitment to support Iraq as it confronts the menace of Daesh or so named Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“Meeting the personnel of our Special Operations Task Group in Baghdad was a privilege. I was impressed with the depth of experience within the Task Group and their commitment to assisting the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service as it takes the fight to ISIL,” Mr Andrews said.
The Minister also met personnel serving with the Royal Australian Air Force Air Task Group and gained an invaluable insight into the significant capability that it brings to the Coalition operations supporting Iraq.
“I was able to observe first hand the air package that Australia is providing through the F/A?18F Super Hornet’s strike capability, the coordination capability of the E-7A Wedgetail and the endurance that the KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft provides to Australian and Coalition aircraft,” the Minister said.
“While the technical capability of the aircraft is significant, I was most impressed with the quality and commitment of the Air Task Group personnel who are making a key contribution to supporting the Iraqi forces.”
A visit to the Headquarters of the Australian Joint Task Force in the Middle East also provided an important opportunity for Mr Andrews to meet the personnel contributing to Australia’s commitment across the broader region.
“While I have always admired the capability and dedication of Defence personnel, I was humbled by the service and sacrifice of the men and women I met during this visit,” the Minister said.
“At a time when most Australians are taking a break, these mothers, fathers, sons and daughters are away from their families and Australians can be proud of them and the important work they are doing in our name.”
Imagery is available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20150015
Jan Le Maitre (Minister Andrews’ Office) (02) 6277 7800
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999