Army medic Private Justin Banks, from 2nd Health Battalion, has deployed on three ‘assist’ operations in three years.
This time, on Operation Tonga Assist 2022, there is a personal connection.
“My uncle is Tongan and I have several Tongan cousins,” Private Banks said.
“The whole family have been to Tonga to see their villages and they’re happy I’m helping after the volcanic eruption and tsunami.”
Private Banks asked his uncle for information about Atata Island, the first location for recovery efforts ashore.
“He helped me understand more about the island and the people, which gave me a stronger connection to the community and how we are helping."
Private Banks’ first deployment was on Operation COVID-19 Assist in 2020, where he tested symptomatic patients alongside a clinical nurse, and in 2021 he deployed on Operation Fiji Assist.
“As integrated medics, we can deploy at short notice with an advance party, then remain with the main body to reduce response times in case there is a casualty incident,” Private Banks said.
He is based on Atata Island to provide health care on the ground for engineers conducting recovery efforts.
The medic, who grew up in Penrith, Western Sydney, said he always wanted to be a paramedic and joined the Army to fulfil that dream.
“I have learnt a lot in my four years as an Army medic and I’m now studying a Bachelor of Paramedic Practice at the University of Tasmania," he said.
Private Banks said his partner was supportive during short-notice humanitarian assistance and disaster relief deployments, and knew his absences meant he was making a difference.
“She’s proud to know I’m part of a team helping people in need,” he said.