It was the busiest time of year for the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) and Royal Military College – Duntroon (RMC), but when the calls came to accommodate hundreds of firefighters, SES personnel, transiting ADF members and even a childcare centre, the Duntroon Garrison team launched a massive coordinated effort to make sure their guests had everything they would need.

Within a day, the ADFA gymnasium facilities at Campbell, ACT, were set up to accommodate 350 people, with the nearby RMC ready to accommodate an additional 76.

“To the best of my knowledge, nothing like this has ever been done before at ADFA or RMC,”  ADFA executive officer Lieutenant Commander Jon Little, said.

“We hired portable showers and toilets, acquired towels and linen so that everyone had a towel, sheets and as many blankets as they wanted,” he said.

Working through a roster system, ADFA trainee officers were utilised to provide a central point of contact for the guests. The trainee Officers undertook these roles in addition to assisting ADFA Staff with the Year One Familiarisation Training of 360 new Officers.

“It was great to watch our trainee officers apply theoretical lessons in practical applications,” Lieutenant Commander Little said.

“They were required to develop last-minute solutions to uncommon problems, such as dietary requirements presented on the day and pharmacy scripts that needed to be filled late at night when firefighters returned from duty.

“The firefighters, with some being former ADF members, shared their stories and gave the trainees life experiences that we could never give them."

The trainees also escorted groups of guests to the cadet’s mess, which was in itself a massive coordinated effort.

“So that we could rotate everyone through, groups had set times to eat at the mess,” Lieutenant Commander Little said.

“All nine Canberra messes provided cut lunches and hot boxes to firefighters if they didn’t have the opportunity to eat at the mess."

In total, Canberra messes provided 14,960 meals in support of Operation Bushfire Assist.

Before the last contingent of firefighters departed the ADFA on February 10, ADF Director Education and Training Group Captain Jeff Howard presented Rural Fire Service Queensland officer Sam Eitz with a cap as a token of appreciation in front of 36 departing firefighters.

“Honestly, I don’t think anymore could have been done for us,” Mr Eitz said.

“Any questions, any issues we had was met with ‘yes we can get that done’ or ‘yep, we’ll make that happen’ so we felt supported by everyone around us.”

“We can’t thank everyone enough for everything that was done for us while we were there."