Army Reservist Lieutenant Colonel Reuben Bowd has welcomed an award recognising the outstanding support his civilian employer provided him while he was deployed on Operation Bushfire Assist 2019–2020.

WaterNSW, the state-owned corporation tasked with operating NSW’s rivers and water supply systems across the state, has won Defence’s State Employer Support Award for the NSW public sector. Nominated by their reservist employees, these businesses offer continuous support and participation in their employees' part-time military career. 

Having joined the Australian Regular Army in 1996, Lieutenant Colonel Bowd transferred to the reserves after becoming a lawyer.

“The reserves offered me the opportunity to continue to pursue my interests and aspirations in the Army, while also exploring new challenges in my civilian career as a lawyer,” Lieutenant Colonel Bowd said.

He joined WaterNSW in late August 2019, stepping into a busy role as a General Counsel. He was only with the company for four months before the he was called out to support Operation Bushfire Assist.

“During Operation Bushfire Assist, I was the Commanding Officer of the Combat Service Support Battalion Task Group – as part of the Joint Task Force responsible for the ADF’s bushfire response across New South Wales and the ACT,” he said. 

His task group’s responsibilities varied from providing essential catering and medical facilities at evacuation centres to transporting emergency services personnel and more than a million litres of water to impacted communities. 

“The primary role of the ADF on Operation Bushfire Assist was to provide support to the civil community, not to take the lead in the bushfire response activities,” Lieutenant Colonel Bowd said.

“By providing that support we free up others – the police, the paramedics and so on – to do what they’re specialists in.”

Lieutenant Colonel Bowd emphasised that he would not have been able to fulfil the demanding requirements of his role without the support and encouragement that he received from WaterNSW – in particular, providing military leave for almost two months without hesitation. 

He said it was for this support that he nominated the organisation for the Employer Support Awards. 

“WaterNSW has been absolutely amazing in the support they’ve given me,” he said.

“It’s difficult for an individual let alone an organisation, and you need a supportive employer to facilitate it. With the communication received from leadership, I’ve felt very much at ease that WaterNSW have had my back.”

Since the end of the operation, Lieutenant Colonel  Bowd has returned to his reserve duties as Commanding Officer of the 5th Combat Service Support Battalion, a logistics unit headquartered in Holsworthy, with depots in Canberra and Wagga Wagga. 

He said he aimed to ensure WaterNSW received a return on its investment in his reserve service. 

“I’m bringing back different perspectives, experience, training and leadership skills that will benefit the company,” he said.