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Announcement of new Australian Commander for the Middle East Area of Operations.

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


Saturday, 24 May 2003 69/2003


Defence Minister Robert Hill today extended his congratulations to Air Commodore Graham Bentley on his appointment as the Australian Commander Joint Task Force for the Middle East Area of Operations.

Air Commodore Bentley will replace Brigadier Maurie McNarn, the current Australian National Commander in the Middle East. Air Commodore Bentley commenced his duties in the Middle East yesterday, 23 May 2003.

“Air Commodore Bentley takes over command at a time when coalition operations in Iraq are transitioning to an important and vital stage,” Senator Hill said.

“Australia’s Defence contribution will form an integral part of our whole-of-government efforts for Iraq’s rehabilitation by supporting the strengthening of security and stability in Iraq during this critical transition phase.

“Following the return of ADF members serving in the Middle East as part of Operation Falconer, about 1000 Australian Defence personnel deployed in the Middle East will continue to work efficiently and effectively carrying out essential tasks such as air traffic control of the Baghdad International Airport, security for the Australian Representative Mission, assistance to locate and destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, ongoing maritime patrol duties in the Persian Gulf and air transport tasks.

“The men and women of the Australian Defence Force have performed exceptionally throughout operations in the Middle East to date under the leadership of Brigadier Maurie McNarn.

“During my visit to the Middle East it was clear that morale was very high, the men and women of the ADF were working hard and very proud of what they've been able to achieve.”

Media Note:

A biography for Air Commodore Bentley is attached. A photograph of the handover will be available at after 12 noon AEST today.

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

Claire Bannon (Defence) 02 6265 2376 0414 236 352


AIR COMMODORE GRAHAM BENTLEY Australian Commander Joint Task Force - Middle East Area of Operations (ASCOMD JTF- MEAO)

Air Commodore Bentley was born in Ballarat, Victoria the son of a RAAF Navigator. He was educated in numerous primary and secondary schools in around southern Australia. He joined the RAAF in June 1974 to undertake Basic Navigator training. After graduating as dux of his course in 1975 he was posted to No 11 Squadron to fly P-3B Orions. In March 1978 AIRCDRE Bentley was attached to the USA for one of the initial P-3C Update II transitions and was part of the crew that flew the first P-3C to Australia in May of this year.

Over the period 1981-83 Air Commodore Bentley was posted on exchange to No 415 Squadron in Nova Scotia, Canada. On return to Australia Air Commodore Bentley was posted to No 292 Squadron as an instructor until the end on 1985 when he was posted to the Australian Joint Maritime Warfare Centre as Staff Officer Air Operations. He was then posted as Executive Officer to No 11 Squadron (1988-89).

Air Commodore Bentley graduated from RAAF Staff College at the end of 1990. He was posted as Deputy Director Trials - Air Force between 1991 and 1993. He was posted as the Commanding Officer of the School of Air Navigation between mid 1993 and mid 1995. Air Commodore Bentley renewed his association with the US Navy with a posting to Commander Patrol Wings U.S. Pacific Fleet Headquarters as Readiness Plans Officer and as Assistant Chief of Staff for Training (1995-97).

As a senior officer his appointments have included Director Plans at Headquarters Air Command, Co-ordinator of the Global Hawk Deployment to Australia and Director General Policy and Plans - Air Force Air Commodore Bentley’s previous appointment prior to his new command duties in the Middle East was the Commander Maritime Patrol Group (CDR MPG) based in South Australia and responsible for all aspects of the RAAF’s P3 Orion maritime patrol operations.

Air Commodore Bentley attended both the Joint Services Staff College and the Australian College of Defence and Strategic Studies. He holds a Graduate Diploma of Business Management, Graduate Diploma of Strategic Studies. He has accumulated over 5000 hours flying in P-3 aircraft.

Air Commodre Bentley is married with two children. Air Commodore Bentley’s hobbies include golf, computers, gardening, rock music and he has a fine appreciation of red wine and food.