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Change of command in the Middle East.



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MEDIA RELEASE SENATOR THE HON ROBERT HILL Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate

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Monday, 16 May 2005 083/2005

CHANGE OF COMMAND IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Commodore Geoff Ledger has been appointed Commander of the Australian Forces in the Middle East Area of Operations, Defence Minister Robert Hill announced today.

Senator Hill said Navy Commodore Geoff Ledger will replace Air Commodore Greg Evans who has commanded the Australian contingent since November last year.

Based in Baghdad, Commodore Geoff Ledger will lead around 1370 Australian Defence Force personnel on active service in the Middle East to support Coalition rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

“Commodore Ledger arrives at a time of considerable growth for Australia’s operations in Iraq,” Senator Hill said.

“Not only will he be responsible for our force elements that have been there for some time, he will also be in charge of the Al Muthanna Task Group that recently arrived in Iraq.”

Senator Hill endorsed Commodore Ledger’s appointment which will build on his exemplary career that began when he commenced military training as a pilot in 1972.

“Commodore Ledger’s capacity to operate in conditions of adversity has been consistently demonstrated throughout his years of dedicated service.

“He was involved in the clean up following Cyclone Tracy, flew helicopters for the United Nations Emergency Force in Egypt and was awarded the Silver Commendation Medal by the Singaporean Government after he led the rescue effort to save 14 people following the Sentosa Cable Car Disaster in 1983.”

Senator Hill also praised Air Commodore Evans for his command and leadership over the past six months.

“Air Commodore Evans has done a good job under very trying conditions during a period when insurgent attacks were becoming a regular occurrence.

“The Australian Defence Force continues to make a substantial commitment to Coalition operations in the Middle East.

“HMAS Darwin is currently in the Gulf conducting boardings of oil tankers, dhows and passenger vessels, supporting both the rehabilitation operation in Iraq and the coalition operation against terrorism.”

To date, C-130 Hercules transport aircraft have maintained an effective air bridge within the Middle East. On nearly 900 missions, these aircraft have carried over 7,800 tonnes of cargo, more than 23,000 passengers and over 1300 Aero-Medical Evacuations.

Media contacts Sascha Meldrum (Senator Hill) 08 8237 7920 0409 034 241

Defence Media Liaison 02 6265 3343 0408 498 664

www.defence.gov.au

“Our Maritime Patrol aircraft continue to provide invaluable support undertaking intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions over the Persian Gulf,” Senator Hill said.

MEDIA NOTE:

Commodore Ledger’s biographical details and a photograph of the handover ceremony will be available at: www.defence.gov.au/opcatalyst