The commander of the ADF’s support to the flood recovery efforts in NSW, Brigadier Mick Garraway, has praised the work of all involved, particularly Army personnel who were the backbone of the operation.
“We received the call for help on the March 23 and responded immediately, establishing Operation NSW Flood Assist,” Brigadier Garraway said.
“We marshalled Army, Navy and Air Force personnel from New South Wales and Queensland to help in the recovery effort.
“I am proud of the way they got stuck in and helped residents, farmers and business owners clean up from the floods.
“They have made a huge difference in the lives of some of the hardest hit communities, providing vital relief and support.
“The inter-agency teams formed with state and local government officials in the emergency operations centres were very effective, and the combined clean-up teams composed of emergency services and ADF members achieved great results.”
This was the first deployment for Private Daniel Saumaitoga, a Reserve rifleman from the 4th/3rd Battalion, Royal New South Wales Regiment (4/3RNSWR).
“I was inspired by the ability of the team to get stuck in shoulder-to-shoulder with our emergency services partners and flood-affected communities to help those who had lost and gone through so much – I truly felt like we made a difference to so many people,” Private Saumaitoga said.
Em Trotter's home in Croki outside Taree was inundated with flood waters, damaging the 100-year-old property.
She lost most of her belongings, precious documents and a considerable number of livestock.
"I never could have gotten through this without all the support – everyone has come in and just been so compassionate and attentive and just getting in and helping, we are so grateful,” she said.
At its peak, about 850 Defence members were assigned to the operation, with Army taking the lead for recovery operations across the state.
Two Emergency Support Forces (ESF) were raised predominantly from Army’s 5th and 7th Brigades to cover northern and southern regions, with other units directly supporting state agencies including the NSW State Emergency Service, Fire and Rescue, Police Force, Resilience NSW and local governments.
Attachments to both ESFs were drawn from regular and reserve units as well as international partners from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces who were training with 7th Brigade in Brisbane at the time of the flooding.
The focus for the operation has been on the hard-hit areas of Taree, Port Macquarie, Kempsey, Nambucca, Coffs Harbour and the Hawkesbury-Nepean region.
The first personnel on the scene were reservists from the 41st Battalion, Royal New South Wales Regiment.
Many of the members live and work within flood-ravaged communities, so were quick to get on the ground and help those in need.
“We are deeply appreciative of the support of these servicemen and women, their families and their employers,” Brigadier Garraway said.
Personnel contributed to the recovery effort by maintaining roads impacted by the flood and landslides, delivery of fodder to stranded animals, delivery of food, ferrying supplies to isolated communities and the removal of hundreds of tonnes of waste.
Engineers from the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment and 5th Engineer Regiment used their plant equipment, including front-end loaders and backhoes, to relieve pressure on local councils.
The 5th Aviation Regiment’s MRH-90 Taipans provided aerial reconnaissance and troop-lift capabilities.