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Two firsts: First time in South Sudan and flying the first-ever Vietnamese contingent to peacekeeping

Flight Lieutenant Conor O’Neill from the Australian Defense Force

At the age of five or six, he knew he wanted to be a pilot. He is now 30, and flies a monstrous craft in those hard-to-go-to places.

As his plane touched-down in South Sudan, Flight Lieutenant Conor O’Neill from the Australian Defense Force said he was proud that he had safely accomplished his mission – that of transporting the first-ever Vietnamese military contingent to a peacekeeping mission.

Their journey from Vietnam to South Sudan took a total of 23 hours.

“I have never been here before. This is my first time,” said Flight Lieutenant O’Neill, the Captain of the massive C-17 Royal Australian Airforce plane, which arrived in South Sudan on Tuesday October 2nd.

“On behalf of the crew, it was obviously a real honor for us to bring the first-ever Vietnamese contingent into South Sudan,” he continued, in an interview.

“Just to see their faces on arrival and how happy they were to be here, and to be able to get involved in a UN Mission was really nice to see,” added O’Neill.

30 Vietnamese peacekeepers were flown into South Sudan in the belly of his plane, arriving with their 40 tons of medical and logistical supplies.

The C17 is a large, four-engine aircraft capable of arriving and departing on short dirt strips. It is built to air-drop all kinds of things, from bulldozers to boats, humanitarian aid and all types of aid, but primarily the back is built to be able to carry a tank on board and deliver it to austere locations.

Flight Lieutenant O’Neill has been flying the C-17 since 2014 on several humanitarian trips delivering aid in war-torn countries and places which have experienced natural disasters such as cyclones, earthquakes or tsunamis, among a list of other humanitarian relief work.

“It’s an amazing job. It’s great to be able to fly the aircraft to different locations, meeting new people, and what the ADF (Australian Defense Force) sees as relationship-building in different parts of the world,” he says adding that he flies with a crew of about 12.


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