Brian (Jack) Plenty AM (President)
My life at 38 Squadron began on posting to Caribou conversion in April 1977 at Richmond, NSW. John Griffiths (Griff) was the Training Flight Commander who, along with George Bliss, Chuck Conner and Bob Bacchiella, tried to stop us: landing on the nose wheel during Short Take Offs & Landings (STOLs), collecting foliage from Londonderry Drop Zone whilst flying away from Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System airdrops and causing serious injuries to the aircraft, bystanders or our instructors during the PNG trainer. I did not know what to expect from flying the Caribou but loved it from the first flight. It was hands on flying: STOLs were a blast and landing up the 8% slope at Wau, PNG was, well, wow.
Under the outstanding leadership of Phil Astley, A Flight Commander, I spent a marvellous two and half years flying around Australia undertaking numerous couriers on the East Coast; a range of Army, Navy and Air Force Support tasks, Parachute Training School tasks from Salt Ash Drop Zone and elsewhere, exercises in outback Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia and regular training and check out flights. Highlights included a deployment to West Irian on Op Cenderawasih in mid- 1978, more PNG trainers and in early 1979 bringing home the UN Caribou from Islamabad at the end of the Air Force deployment with Noel Kruse, Kev Scott and Col Knudsen. My time in the boggies paradise ended in January 1980 when I was sent on flying instructors course at Central Flying School (CFS), East Sale, VIC and then time instructing at 1 Flying Training School, Point Cook, VIC.
I was back at the Squadron in early 1982 for a refresher/conversion. Mike Calvert was the Training Flight Commander, along with Dick Elliott, Bob Mears, Ray Lockitt and Cowboy Wilcox as Squadron NAVO. The conversion was very enjoyable and easier second time round and again culminated in a PNG trainer. After a few months of line flying, I started Right Hand Seat training in preparation for a CFS check out and expected a tour in Training Flight. Fate intervened and in September I was sent on Melanesian Pidgeon language training at Point Cook then in August to Aircraft Research & Development Unit (ARDU) for C47 Dakota conversion and subsequent instructor rating at CFS prior to proceeding on posting to the PNGDF Air Wing at Lae airport.
I spent 1983 and 1984 with the PNGDF Air Wing instructing PNGDF pilots on the C47, flying throughout PNG, landing at most of the familiar Caribou strips and many others. John McGill-Harris was CO in 1983 and Giff was CO in 1984. The flying was simply marvellous. I then spent 1985 and 1986 at CFS as a flying instructor; three years in a ground tour in Air Force Personnel in Canberra; A Flight Commander, Chief Flying Instructor and then Temporary/Commanding Officer for three months at 2 Flying Training School, Pearce, WA in 1980 and 1981; RAAF Staff College, Canberra in 1982; ground tours in Canberra in the Defence Intelligence Organisation then as Staff Officer to the Vice Chief of the Defence Force; then back to 38SQN, now at Amberley, QLD as CO from mid-1986 and 1987.
There were many highlights as CO but commanding a great bunch of aircrew, ground crew and support staff was on top. Dave Falls was Executive Officer and ran a highly efficient operation. As a former Caribou sumpy and Loadmaster, he provided me excellent oversight and advice on all aspects of the squadrons activities. One highlight was the introduction of Night Vision Goggle flying after the aircraft had been modified and key to this activity was Dougal Scott, the Training Flight Commander. My time as CO was too short and was to be the last time flying Caribou.
I subsequently was posted as Director Exercises at the ADF Warfare Centre, Williamtown, NSW in 1988 and 1989 then as Officer Commanding 86 Wing, with 38SQN being one of the units in the Wing, from mid-2000 and 2001. Postings followed as Chief of Staff at Headquarters Australian Theatre (HQAST), Potts Point, NSW in 2002 and 2003 (renamed HQ Joint Operations Command in 2004) with three months in the United Kingdom in early 2003 attending the Higher Command & Staff Course and then to Infrastructure Division as Director HQAST Project from 2004 to early 2007. I was then posted to Command Air Lift Group (now Air Mobility Group) from early 2007 to August 2008 and then to my final posting as Head Capability Systems in Capability Development Group before being retired at the end of 2012.
I now live in the Kurrajong Hills to the west of Richmond on 10 acres, that needs a lot of love and care. I still see and hear C130s, C17s, Hawk and Army and Navy rotary wing aircraft flying into Richmond: all reminders of a great career that started on Caribou at 38 Squadron.
Matt Struthers (Secretary)
My 38 Squadron time started straight with writing it on my name tag at Wagga after finishing Instruments course in 1991. I had made a deal to swap if I got 38 SQN and a mate of mine got somewhere else at Richmond. While completing the last few weeks of the course I bumped into SGT Pete ‘Sully’ Sullivan who started with “Ahhh, Thirsty Eight SQN eh, you’ll love it there”. After a couple of stories I was sold and reneged on my mate, apologies Scott.
I spent the first year and a bit at Richmond until the end of 1992 when the Squadron moved to Amberley.
1993 to the end of 1996 I was there at 38 Squadron soaking up the excellent life working on Caribou’s brings, along with the great camaraderie and the culture of the Squadron. We certainly seemed to make the other units jealous, so it seemed. I reckon they all had it good, now that I look back on my time in the RAAF. While I was at the Squadron for this tour I was usually involved in the social club in different areas, the Enfield Club was an awesome way to get the Squadron members together, RAAFies and our partners. The end of 1996 we also had our first son, Lachlan.
1997 I started a new chapter with Caribou’s when I was posted to ALLMSQN to support them. Those four years I learnt a new side to maintaining aircraft, through the support to those on the front line flying, maintaining and supporting with developing accurate publications and data systems. While I was at ALLMSQN I ended up involved in the ALLMSQN social club and then my last year, 2000 I was the Airmen’s Club President. That was a fun year with plenty of stories, and yes Julie was involved there too. While we were posted to Richmond we had our second son, Justin, and our third son, Thomas.
2001 saw us posted back to Amberley and back at 38 Squadron. We were only there long enough to have our first daughter, Caitlin, buy a house and get posted again. This time we were heading north to Townsville to be a part of Det B.
2002 to 2004 I was a part of the small and very effective Avionics team with a few PNG trainers and a deployment to the Solomon Islands, not to mention a small bout of malaria from the PNG highlands.
2004 saw me choose to spend more time with my family than the Caribous and we headed back to Amberley, Ipswich to be more specific, as we were now civilians, that was weird.
From there I have not been able to get away from Defence and have been to Nowra with the Navy for support of weird things that had wings that spun a great rate of knots overhead, helicopters, although most of the work there was loggie support. Then back to Amberley with F-111’s and Super Hornets and now working with the Army on helicopters again. I have also been involved with 38 SQN after getting out with 23 SQN and then recently sorting Caribou spares for the disposal project.
When I was offered to help out with getting the 38 Squadron Association up and running, it was hard to say no, hence why I am here. I look forward to many years involvement with the Association and getting reunited with past members of the Enfield Club.
Julie Struthers (Treasurer and Membership)
My name is Julie Struthers and I hold the positions of Treasurer and Membership Officer.
The experience I bring to this role is:-
I have 7 yrs Administration and Membership Management with a large R.S.L. Club. I have held various administration and finance roles over the past 30 years. I have also been involved with multiple committees in various roles. When I have held a treasurer role where memberships were to be managed I have also been the Membership Officer as these roles often go hand in hand. Accumulatively I have 6 years Treasurer/Memberships Officer experience.
Personally and my time with 38 SQN:-
My time with 38 Squadron was with Caribou’s from March 1994 to July 2004. Our family of 6 travelled up and down the east coast starting at Amberley – Richmond – Amberley – Townsville until my husband’s discharge, all of our postings were only Caribou related. My first flight in a plane was in a Caribou and it holds a special place in my heart. I regularly dropped into the squadron and made a huge effort to get to know my husbands’ work colleagues and was no stranger to pickups from the White Hut or visits to the Bou Bar. Our time with 38 SQN had a major impact not only on my husband as a serviceman but myself as a spouse, mother and me personally. I often wish I could turn back time as I have great memories, and may have had a word in some exceptional peoples ears (nagging/harassing haha… ) to support this association coming to fruition.
Looking forward to sharing and making new memories as the ”38 Squadron Association”.
John Griffiths, MBE (Public Relations)
My Caribou life started out at Richmond on Caribou, August 1966 to May 1968 Straight off Pilot’s Course as a Boggie, learning the ropes from the very experienced, Vietnam veterans, Mike Lancaster and Ron Raymond. The Squadron was turning over all crew, both groundcrew, and aircrew, feeding the needs of 35 Squadron Vietnam. We flew many Army exercises in Rocky and flew to Papua New Guinea, learning to operate the Caribou in High and Hot operations. With our experience, little as it was at that stage, Vietnam was a whole lot less demanding than New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea June ’67 to August ’67 and February ’68 to March ’68 Operations in 38 Squadron Det A based in Port Moresby. We were working with the Army and Civil Aid. Several Search and Rescue operations later as there were many aircraft accidents in the highlands. With very few roads at that time in PNG, light aircraft were the only means of transport to get produce to the markets, supplies back to the villages and missionaries to do their work. After a very short break back at Richmond, headed off to fly the Caribou in Vietnam with 35 Squadron.
Richmond again July 1974 to January 1978 After a tour on C130Es and an instructional tour at Point Cook, it was back to Richmond instructing on the Caribou. Started out as a junior instructor and finishing up as the Training Flight Commander. Plenty of great flying including numerous PNG trainers and an aircraft changeover to Kashmir. Great experience. After leaving 38 in January ’78 I headed to Townsville as the Caribou Flight Commander at 35 Squadron before heading off to the USA, flying the Sabreliner on Exchange with the USAF. No further hands-on with the Caribou but it was one of the aircraft types I looked after in the USAF Safety Center (sic). That set me up for a tour at DFS before heading back to PNG as the Commanding Officer PNGDF with Jack Plenty, our 38 Squadron Association President.
After 20 odd years as an Aviation Insurance Loss Adjustor, attending many aircraft accidents I returned to the RAAF in the Active Reserve until I aged out at 68.
A great life, thanks so much to those formative years learning the basics.
Michael ‘BO’ BURGESS-ORTON (Assistant Secretary)
Michael was born in Salisbury, Rhodesia on 29 March 1974. He emigrated from Zimbabwe in August 1982 and his family settled on the Gold Coast. He attended Southport State High School and graduated in 1991.
Michael joined the RAAF on 21 January 1992 and attended the Australian Defence Force Academy to complete a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Mathematics. After graduation, he was attached to 82WG for six months in 1995, while waiting for 169 Pilot’s course. He graduated from 172 Pilot’s course on 4 July 1997, after back coursings due to air-sickness and a broken elbow.
Michael was posted to 38 Squadron after pilot’s course and was soon deployed to Papua New Guinea for drought relief operations in early 1998 for Operation PLES DRAI. He became a non-tactical Captain in 1999 and was deployed to East Timor with Operation WARDEN and INTERFET prior to being posted to the Australian Defence Force Academy in 2000.
In 2002, Michael completed a refresher course on the Caribou and quickly became a Tactical Captain and was deployed for Operation ANODE in 2003, Operation LARRY Assist in 2006 and Caribou Detachment Commander on Operation GUBA Assist in 2007.
During his seven year posting he filled positions as OIC Tactics Cell, Deputy Operations Flight Commander, Operations Flight Commander and Detachment Commander for 38SQN Detachment B. On 5 Sep 2008, Michael was the Aircraft Captain of ASY 764 which suffered a structural failure during landing at Efogi in PNG.
In 2009 Michael was posted to HQ 3 Brigade as Brigade Air Liaison Officer and was deployed to Operation SLIPPER as the Air Liaison Officer to Combined Team Uruzgan in 2010, to establish an Air Effects Cell. He was appointed as Director of the Air Component Coordination Element for Operation QLD FLOOD Assist (7 BDE) and Operation YASI Assist (3 BDE) in early 2011.
Michael completed the Advanced Command and Staff Course in the UK during 2011/12 and was posted to HQJOC as a Current Operations Watch Commander in 2012/13. He was appointed to Command 38 Squadron from Nov 2013 to Dec 16 where he converted onto the King Air 350 and delivered a number of reforms in pilot development and capability enhancement.
The formation of the 38 Squadron Association had been a major goal, which was realised with the foundation meeting prior to handing over Command of the Squadron.
Michael is married to Abigail and has two children, Lachlan (18) and Emily (15).
Dave Geck (Assistant Public Relations)
I joined the RAAF in May 1985 and trained as an Electrical Fitter, spent 4 years after Wagga Wagga at ATTU in Richmond, working on GSE, Finally after 6 years in the RAAF I was posted to a Flying Squadron, 1FTS and was allowed to work on Aircraft. After 1FTS was closed down two years later, I was posted to TAAMS in Darwin and eventually transferred to 35 Squadron Det A. Enjoyed the small team environment of working in Darwin, we worked hard and played hard.
After 8 years it came to an end and I was posted to 38 Squadron Amberley in Jan 2000 and promoted to Sgt. Very much enjoyed Amberley with many trips away, PNG, Solomons, Noumea and New Zealand the highlights. It was time to move again and a spot came up in Townsville which I grabbed, the chance to work in a small detachment environment again with 38 Squadron Det B this time. The four years in Townsville flew by with plenty of trips, rescues and the Squadron moving up in 2008.
December 2008 saw my discharge from the RAAF after the dreaded offer of a posting to the deep south. Moved to Maryborough, Qld and joined Queensland Air Museum in January 2009 and have been working on their Caribou’s ever since.