Victoria is a long way from home for a Townsville local, but Sergeant Ian McGregor is one of over 6500 ADF personnel who are supporting Operation Bushfire Assist throughout southern Australia.

A Forward Arming and Refuelling Point Supervisor in the Australian Army’s 5th Aviation Regiment at RAAF Base Townsville, Sergeant McGregor specialises in hot and cold refuelling of aircraft.

Sergeant McGregor said that hot refuelling is a critical skill during cargo and passenger movements into and out of bushfire-affected areas.

“I’m helping at RAAF Base East Sale, because when we need quick aircraft turnarounds, like during this bushfire crisis, hot refuelling allows us to refuel while engines are still running,” Sergeant McGregor said.

Air Force bases are being used for a range of tasks during Operation Bushfire Assist such as refuelling of firefighting aircraft and emergency accommodation for displaced persons.

“My role during this operation is to refuel the two Singaporean CH-47 Chinook helicopters as well as Australian Army Chinook and Navy MRH-90 helicopters.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to meet anyone directly affected by the fires, but I can’t help feel compassion towards fellow Australians who have lost everything. It would be devastating,” Sergeant McGregor said.

Sergeant McGregor joined the Australian Army 15 years ago, but this is his first military operation on Australian soil.