Returning home from an operation or exercise is something most service personnel look forward to – there is nothing better than being welcomed on arrival by family and loved ones.
Fast forward to August 2020 and arriving home is a very different experience.
Lieutenant Colonel Renee Kidson is the Commanding Officer of the 5th Engineering Regiment. She recently returned from Melbourne after being Chief of Staff for Victoria’s Operation COVID-19 Assist.
“I’ve never seen the airport so quiet,” Lieutenant Colonel Kidson said.
“We were taken from the aircraft, walked 100m to the transit vehicle waiting to take us to our hotel; it all happened so quickly.”
About 1000 ADF personnel – both regular and reserve – have been involved in supporting state and federal government quarantine efforts at Sydney Airport and hotels since March.
It is always a privilege to be the first to welcome ADF members returning from service overseas back home to Australia.
Officer Commanding Alpha Company, JTG629.1.1, Major Glenn Anderson said there had been close to 50,000 international arrivals alone since the start of the operation.
“I had been working on Operation Bushfire Assist,” Major Anderson said.
“I knocked off work on Friday March 20, got a call on Saturday to set up Operation COVID-19 Assist and we were ready to go the next day.
“Our first job was to help Foodbank Australia distribute their products to charities.”
The operation has now transitioned into a bigger effort, including providing quarantine assistance to the NSW Police Force at the Sydney International Airport for the reception and repatriation of international travellers, and one Sydney hotel for ADF personnel returning from overseas through Sydney.
1 Platoon Commander of A Company Lieutenant Robert Christian said it had been a rewarding experience.
“It is always a privilege to be the first to welcome ADF members returning from service on operations overseas back home to Australia and thank them for their service,” Lieutenant Christian said.
He said there had been some interesting arrivals too.
“We recently welcomed a major general, the new French ambassador and marquee Roosters signing Sonny Bill Williams all on a single flight,” Lieutenant Christian said
“The ensuing media scrum resulted in a few of our soldiers making their unexpected media debut the next day.”
Lieutenant Colonel Kidson has nothing but praise for the way she was welcomed back home.
“After flying from Melbourne to Sydney via Brisbane in a Hercules, we all really appreciated being greeted so warmly and professionally; the ADF personnel made me feel proud to be a part of this great organisation,” she said.