24 Squadron say a ‘fair dinkum’ farewell to ‘Crooksie’

12 Dec 06

Flight Lieutenant Michael ‘Crooksie’ Crooks from the Royal Australian Air Force put up with a fair amount of light hearted banter about his antipodean origins during his two year exchange tour at RAF lyneham. But his work with the Hercules flying 24 Squadron, proved to be invaluable and earned him an enormous amount of respect and popularity too.

Wing Commander Turnbull, Officer Commanding 24 Squadron, (left) celebrating with Flight Lieutenant Crooks [Picture: Richard Ellis] . Opens in a new window.

Wing Commander Turnbull, Officer Commanding 24 Squadron, (left) celebrating with Flight Lieutenant Crooks
[Picture: Richard Ellis]

He was made to attend an Exchange Officers Conversion Course and “learn to speak the Queen’s English” before he was let loose on low level tactical flights in Hercules planes. But once ‘Crooksie’ had mastered the differences between the Australian and UK RAFs, his experience in tactical flying came into its own.

‘Crooksie’ was a Tactical Air Transport (Tac AT) instructor in the Royal Australian Air force (RAAF). When he joined 24 Squadron in September 2004 the Squadron were just starting to explore the Tac AT environment and it soon became apparent that ‘Crooksie’ would have a lot to offer the C130J Hercules fleet flown by the Squadron.

Tactical Air Transport basically means flying in more difficult than usual situations, with an emphasis on low level flying. The Hercules planes may need to be flown at night, land on unprepared air strips, carry out air-drops in humanitarian aid situations where there are no-air strips, and carry out aerial delivery of equipment and troops to theatres.

‘Crooksie’ took to the Squadron’s Tac AT environment like an Australian Olympic swimmer takes to the podium and was soon passing on words of wisdom to UK Tac instructors. And within five weeks he was in Afghanistan as the captain of 24 Squadron’s Tac crew. He spent over two months there but, being a typical Aussie, he needed some time off! Well, a week’s paternity leave to be with his wife Sonia during the birth of their daughter Emily.

“Any trepidation we may have had with respect to being the only Australian exchange aircrew on the camp was soon dispelled as we were made to feel extremely welcome from the outset.”

Flight Lieutenant Michael ‘Crooksie’ Crooks, Royal Australian Air Force

During his short time at RAF Lyneham ‘Crooksie’ proved to be a well liked, hard working individual who in addition to spending two months in Iraq and two and a half months in Afghanistan, took part in various exercises with the French Air Force. They had even more trouble understanding him!

One of his biggest contributions to the C130J Hercules Wing was the Tactical simulator trips that he introduced, providing many realistic operational type missions to train and test our crews. Flight Lieutenant Crooks said of his stay at Lyneham:

“Any trepidation we may have had with respect to being the only Australian exchange aircrew on the camp was soon dispelled as we were made to feel extremely welcome from the outset. Once we were settled in the Officers’ Married Quarter and on completion of the exchange pilot’s conversion course I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity of a low level course. This has given me plenty of time to get used to your quaint weather around the UK low flying system.”

An RAF Hercules C-130K [Picture: RAF Lyneham]. Opens in a new window.

An RAF Hercules C-130K
[Picture: RAF Lyneham]

RAF Lyneham are clearly sorry to see him go, saying that he has been somewhat of a British talisman since his arrival (the Australians lost the Ashes and the majority of their rugby games), and he’s taken quite a bit of stick. They are just sorry that he’ll be back home by the time this Ashes test will have finished?!

“I have thoroughly enjoyed flying with the RAF,” ‘Crooksie’ continued. “It has been a busy period over the last two and half years and I am both glad and proud to have been part of a strong unit throughout this period. We have made the most of this fantastic opportunity given to us and the birth of both of my children, Emily and Hayden, amalgamated with the wonderful experiences gained from serving with the RAF, in particular 24 Squadron, have given us many wonderful memories to take back to Australia. We would like to express our gratitude to 24 Squadron for all their help over the last two-and-a-half years and there will always be a welcome for any of them to come and watch the rest of the Ashes at my place!!”

Flight Lieutenant Crooks was presented with his Iraq and Afghanistan General Service Medal in the Officers’ Mess before he went back down under. Both of these were earned while serving with the RAF on 24 Squadron.

All on 24 Squadron would like to pass on their sincere thanks and gratitude to both Michael and Sonia for all their help during their time here and would like to emphasize that there’ll always be a welcome for them on 24 Squadron.

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