KUALA LUMPUR - For Air Chief Marshal (Rtd) Angus Houston, the most recognised Australian involved in the search for missing aircraft MH370, helping Malaysia means a lot to him.
The former Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) head said he was shocked and very sad when he heard about MH370.
"As someone who has worked, lived and relaxed with Malaysians, I have a good understanding of Malaysians, their history and culture. I was most empathetic and sensitive to the Malaysians I worked with on MH370," he said.
Houston worked in Butterworth in 1999 as the Commander of the Integrated Air Defence System - a five-nation military air defence co-operation.
Describing his stay in Malaysia as wonderful and constructive, Houston said he worked with many Malaysians, including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak when the latter was Defence Minister.
"I found Malaysians involved in the search from the Prime Minister down to be highly professional and very effective," he said when interviewed on the sidelines of Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein's working visit to Perth recently.
Houston has a long and decorated military career, which culminated in him being appointed the Chief of the Defence Force in 2005 until his retirement in 2011. Prior to that he was the Chief of Air Force in 2001.
As Chief of the Defence Force, he oversaw Australia's military operations overseas.
"I have had many demanding missions in my career and MH370 and MH17 are two of them," he said.
Relating his experience in leading the JACC, Houston said he was required to coordinate all search and recovery activities and make arrangements for the visit to Australia of the family members of those on board MH370.
"To provide closure, I hope the current underwater search is successful in locating the last resting place of MH370," said Houston, who had been appointed special envoy of the Prime Minister to lead Australia's efforts on the ground in Ukraine to help recover, identify and repatriate Australians killed in the MH17 crash.