From the driver’s seat of an Army Bushmaster, Lance Corporal Trent Hewitt saw the devastation on the NSW South Coast as he travelled with an Army medical detachment.
“I’d lived there for 30 years and never seen anything like it, it’s not nice seeing how close it was to my parents,” Lance Corporal Hewitt said.
“A couple of cousins nearly lost their places. I’d seen it on TV and wanted to get down here, but instead I came with the Army.”
Lance Corporal Hewitt grew up in the South Coast town of Milton, running a service station for 10 years before joining the Army as a truck driver.
His parents still live in Milton, while fire threatened his cousins’ properties at Bawley Point and some of his friends lost homes at Conjola.
He's been positioned at the evacuation centre in Batemans Bay serving as a Bushmaster ambulance driver and on January 9 was posted down the coast to Eden.
“If there’s casualties you can’t get to with normal cars, they could request us take the Bushmaster and a medic to get them out,” Lance Corporal Hewitt said.
While waiting for a call out, Lance Corporal Hewitt showed children at the evacuation centre inside the vehicle.
“It takes their minds off stuff for a bit,” he said.
“I’ll talk to the parents who’ll tell you what they’ve been through. It gives them a chance to vent while their kids are having a good time.
“It puts perspective on it all – kids whinge at home, but these kids have lost it all.
“A lot can’t go home because they’re waiting for insurance assessors. They’re living out of motels, not sure what’s going to happen from here.”
After joining the Army, Lance Corporal Hewitt was posted to Darwin, Sydney, Townsville and is now with the 1st Close Health Battalion in Brisbane.
“I work a lot less in the Army, I was working 12 hours every day at the servo,” he said
“My family are happy for me to be here in Batemans Bay as long as I’m safe."