When Melbourne’s stage four lockdown restrictions began, Major Andrew Leong closed his civilian business to help on Operation COVID-19 Assist. 

He is a reservist working as the J35 Future Operations Planner. He normally leads 4th Brigade’s Alpha Company, 5th/6th Battalion, Royal Victoria Regiment (5/6 RVR). 

As part of the operation, the task group’s operations cell at Simpsons Barracks is the ADF’s Victorian nerve centre.

“We are responsible for tracking tasks and coordinating with the task units out in the field to ensure that the commander’s intent is being met,” Major Leong said.

“Reservists from across the brigade have been called on to support the smooth functioning of the cell. 

“It is in the operations cell that situation reports are developed and sent to the higher headquarters each day in Sydney.”

The operations staff prepare for imminent tasks and then disseminate orders.

Lieutenant Elias Trechenko, who is the operations officer, said there were challenges. 

“We are usually pretty busy from 8am each day,” Lieutenant Trechenko said.

“Some of the challenges we face revolve around the need to provide enough planning and preparation time to the task units as lines of efforts shift and emerging tasks develop.”  

Major Leong said the best part of each day was when the team saw their mates in the community doing their job professionally.

“Seeing members from 5/6 RVR and other 4th Brigade units getting out on tasks in support of partner agencies is hugely rewarding,” Major Leong said. 

“The amount of positive feedback that the task group has received from community and partner agencies also provides a great sense of achievement.

“After we complete a task and withdraw from an area, it is great to see the positive impact our people have had in amplifying our partners' capabilities. What we do is directly supporting them to resume their activities."

The brigade has been helping state and Commonwealth agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, Emergency Management Victoria, Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria and the Victoria Aged Care Response Centre.

Tasks range from supporting COVID-19 testing, and close contact data management and investigation through to assisting with police-managed control points and supporting aged care facility responses.