A chat among friends at RAAF Base Amberley is proving vital for international efforts to assist the Tongan people.

Front and centre in many of these conversations is Air Force aviator Leading Aircraftman Alexander Andrews, who is fluent in Japanese.

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force has two C-130 Hercules aircraft and a team of 53 personnel working on the relief effort at the base, and Leading Aircraftman Andrews’s linguistic skills have been essential in supporting their work.

“Growing up in Tokyo with a Japanese mother and an Australian father, I was exposed to both languages in my daily life,” Leading Aircraftman Andrew said.

“Little did I realise that it would be so cool to speak a second language.

“I’ve played my part in the overall team effort here at Amberley to ensure this essential humanitarian assistance from Japan makes it to Tonga.”

Leading Aircraftman Andrews said no two days are ever the same as a linguist.

“I drive the Japanese crew to and from the aircraft, nominate myself as their point of contact here on base, and I’m always ready to facilitate conversations to avoid roadblocks or confusion,” Leading Aircraftman Andrews said.

“I really enjoy the variety of being a linguist and it’s my dream to one day make it a full-time career.”

When he’s not working as a linguist, Leading Aircraftman Andrews is posted to No. 26 Squadron, serving at Salt Ash air weapons range as an armament technician – a trade also known as a ‘gunnie’.

“I am grateful that my unit was able to release me to help out,” Leading Aircraftman Andrews said.

“I love being a gunnie, but I would take any opportunity to work alongside the Japanese.”

Japan is proud to join Australia and several other nations supporting the Tongan people as the South Pacific nation recovers from the effects of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami.

Captain Otsuka Masato, a Japanese Hercules pilot from Komaki Air Base near the city of Nagoya, is one of those working closely with Leading Aircraftman Andrews.

“We would not be achieving the assistance to the Tongan people without the support of the RAAF and, in particular, their linguists,” Captain Otsuka said.

“Our experience here at RAAF Base Amberley has further strengthened our relationship as Pacific partners.”