Wilson, Gary (Flight Lieutenant, b.1956)

Accession Number PR03317
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement Extent: 3 cm; Wallet/s: 1
Object type Diary, Document, Photograph, Serial
Maker Department of Defence
United Nations
Wilson, Gary
Place made Australia, Somalia
Date made 1993-1994
Access Open
Conflict Somalia, 1992-1995

Collection relating to the United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II) service of Flight Lieutenant Gary K. Wilson, Air Traffic Controller, Royal Australian Air Force, 1993-1994.

The collection includes a United Nations brief regarding the financial situation and allowances for members of the Australian contingent in Somalia, a conditions of service brief detailing leave arrangements, postal services, medal qualifications, and financial allowances, administrative instructions for arrival in Somalia, an equipment list for the deployment, and copies of the minutes authorising ministerial approval for the deployment of Wilson's rotation and the transportation arrangements for the same. Also included is a brief on the operations and mandate of UNOSOM II.

The collection also includes Wilson's UNOSOM identification card, three photographs featuring Wilson, the ten RAAF ATCs, and their accommodation in Somalia, as well as a diary Wilson maintained throughout his deployment. Wilson writes of the lengthy journey to Somalia, flying via Bangkok, London and Nairobi (where one of the ATCs was violently mugged), arriving at Mogadishu on 11 October. "Our arrival at Moggy", Wilson writes, "was something I will never forget as there were military personnel everywhere plus the largest display of military personnel I have ever seen." He comments on the tense operational conditions, the efforts of the Australians to create a comfortable living and social environment, the medical care provided by the United States military hospital nearby (for a pre-existing injury to Wilson's arm), the friendly relations between the Australians and American personnel (who often enjoyed beers together and collectively celebrated Halloween 1993), as well as the work of the ATCs. The RAAF ATCs were split into three teams and placed on a rotational shift roster between morning, evening, and a day off. Wilson was placed in charge of one team of three. According to Wilson, the makeshift Air Traffic Control tower at Mogadishu was little more than "a box with plastic windows on top of ship containers". The tense working conditions are also described by Wilson as "chaos", as the ATCs were in "a strange environment with antiquated equipment" and had "about 8 different nationalities trying to talk" to them from an impressive variety of military aircraft.

Wilson also writes about the death of New Zealander Tyson Morris, a civilian who was shot and killed in Mogadishu in October 1993. The Morris family business, Morris Catering, had the catering contract for UNOSOM II. Wilson also discusses rocket and mortar attacks near and on the airport, his jogging routine along the runway, swapping Australian currency for an American Purple Heart medal, the humid weather, visiting the USS America on 19/20 November (where the "people the food and the ship were first class"), enjoying leave in Mombasa, Kenya, and in the United States, and meeting Senator Gareth Evans, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the Australian compound in Mogadishu on 23 January 1994. Wilson wrote in the diary almost daily from 8 October until 4 January 1994, when entries become more sparse. He records only one entry each in February and March, the latter discussing the departure of the United States forces from Mogadishu. Wilson departed Somalia on 20 April 1994, recording in his diary "I am very happy to be going home."

The collection also includes a page from The Australian newspaper dated 21 September 1993, which includes an article titled "US Choppers Shoot Dead Two Somalis", an excerpt from Time Magazine of 18 October 1993 discussing the situation in Somalia, the March 1994 copy of Australian Aviation magazine with an article on the RAAF ATCs in Somalia by Flying Officer Stewart Murphy, and clippings from the Sunday Herald Sun and Insight magazine relating to Somalia.

History / Summary

Wilson enlisted in the Australian Army in March 1973 and joined the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers as an aircraft airframe fitter. He transferred to the Australian Army Aviation Corps in 1983 and, as a sergeant, completed training at the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) School of Air Traffic Control. Following postings to RAAF Base Edinburgh and the Army Aviation Centre, Wilson transferred to the RAAF as an Air Traffic Controller (ATC) in 1988 and was commissioned a pilot officer. By 1993, he was a flight lieutenant at RAAF Base Townsville.

Wilson deployed to Somalia in October 1993 as a member of Australian Service Contingent III to UNOSOM II. The United Nations operation was an international intervention in Somalia intended to establish a secure environment for humanitarian operations. Wilson was one of ten ATCs deployed by the RAAF to provide air traffic control and support services at Mogadishu International Airport.