Among the staff from many different agencies at the Swift’s Creek Incident Control Centre are several Australian Army and Papua New Guinean Defence Force officers.
They have been working alongside the agencies to help direct Task Group Dingo to where it is most needed.
The centre has been controlling the emergency services response to the bushfires in Victoria’s highlands, ranging from Cobungra in the west to Tambo Crossing in the south-east.
Primarily engineer-based, Task Group Dingo is made up of soldiers from the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment with Papua New Guinean Defence Force attachments and supported by 3rd Brigade specialists. It is assisting Forest Fire Management Victoria with tree felling, road clearing and hazard reduction operations.
As one of the liaison officers, Lieutenant Scott Bowers, from the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment, is responsible for working with Country Fire Authority, Victoria Police, Forest Fire Management, State Emergency Service and Metropolitan Fire Brigade officers – among others.
“There were a lot of a differences at the start, but after just a few days, we worked out all the friction points and created an equilibrium,” Lieutenant Bowers said.
“Working here definitely improves our ties to those agencies and gives us a better starting point to work with them in the future.”
Working alongside Lieutenant Bowers is the PNGDF’s Captain Derek Levi, who has worked with the Australian Defence Force since he was a second lieutenant.
He has taken part in many humanitarian assistance missions back home.
“In PNG, Army heads nearly all the disaster response, which makes this a learning opportunity for us because civilian agencies are the controllers,” Captain Levi said.
“It really gives us a broad perspective for when we get back home to do up an exercise and try and involve all the civilian agencies, then use that to prepare ourselves before any disasters happen by taking a more proactive approach.
“It really is an honour for us to come here and help, reciprocating what you do for us. We love it and, in a way, we’re representing the 8 million people of PNG and giving Australia a hand.”