Gympie veteran remembers 39 years in the air force
WITH Anzac Day just around the corner, Vietnam veteran David Collins has recalled his time in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) from 1960-1999.
Mr Collins said the years spent in the air force were some of the most exciting times of his life.
When he finished recruit training, he trained as an aircraft maintenance technician.
"A couple of years later I was selected for aircrew training and, after six months of intensive training, I qualified as a crewman of the Air Force's latest excitement machine, the HU 1 helicopter,” Mr Collins said. "We were involved in search and rescue in mountains, oceans, rivers and valleys. We participated in flood rescues and bushfire rescues.
"We also supported the Australian Army in its exercises and war games.”
Shortly after Mr Collins was married, former Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced the decision to send a battalion of combat troops to Vietnam.
"We were taking eight of our 24 helicopters. Every man in the squadron put his hand up to go. I was in the first batch and the others had to wait their turn.
"So it was, in May 1966, we set off on our journey to war,” he said. "I'm very proud of my war service and flew over 600 missions in South Vietnam, resupplying the Army with personnel, ammunition, food and water.
"We did all the medical and casualty evacuations and, importantly, delivered the mail to our troops in the field whatever the weather or conditions.
"We all did our job; the communicators, the medics, the re-fuellers and the maintenance staff who kept us flying at all times and the air crew.”
The lead-up to these Anzac Day commemorations gives us all pause for thought.
"This year Gympie RSL celebrates its centenary,” Mr Collins said.
"One hundred years ago, at our foundation, the charter members could not possibly have foreseen the value of their fledgling association.
"Nor could they have seen the need for more and more services that the RSL provides to its members.”
"The RSL is unique in its charter and operation. We offer pension, welfare and advocacy services to those who have served and still serve. We honour the memories of those who made the great sacrifice and to those who offered to.
"We have a need to look after the wellbeing of war widows and widowers, the children of servicemen and women through Legacy. We also look after the welfare of our current members, whether they served on a battle field or not.
"Lest we forget.”