Private Daniel Saumaitoga, from Narwee in NSW, said his first deployment, which was on Operation NSW Flood Assist, was an eye-opening experience.
The rugby league enthusiast and reservist rifleman from the 4th/3rd Battalion, Royal New South Wales Regiment, said the experience offered lessons in mateship, teamwork and resilience.
He was one of 850 ADF personnel who served on the operation, contributing to recovery efforts across the state.
Private Saumaitoga undertook operational tasks in the Manning River region.
“We assisted mostly rural areas, being farmers and growers with large properties, helping locals who had lost pretty much everything,” Private Saumaitoga said.
“Getting in there and shifting debris to start their rebuild process was a huge help, particularly to the older residents.”
Coming into the deployment without any expectations, Private Saumaitoga said he was taken aback by the teamwork shown, particularly as his team had members drawn from across Army.
His team made a significant impact in the recovery and rebuilding effort in a short period of time by removing debris and erecting fences to protect cattle.
“A lot of the families we were helping had gone through so much, having experienced drought, bushfires, the COVID-19 pandemic and now extreme floods,” Private Saumaitoga said.
“Among many of these families, I was inspired by the Aussie spirit and tremendous resilience they showed, just ready to crack on and move on despite losing everything again and again.”
Private Saumaitoga said he felt a sense of achievement in giving something back to other Australians and communities in need, making a difference to the lives of families who had experienced so much.
He said he also felt proud of the connection between the Army and the Australian community during tough times.
Camaraderie also was a stand-out feature of his operational experience, he said.
Outside his Reserve service, Private Saumaitoga is an information technology governance professional with Westpac and a junior rugby league coach.
Private Saumaitoga thanked his partner Rochelle and children Talena and Kye for supporting him as he spent time away to serve on the operation.