More than half of the personnel working in the Operation COVID-19 Assist Headquarters at Simpson Barracks, Yallambie, are reservists. 

Corporal Tony Penna, of Southbank, Melbourne, who is a reservist communications information systems controller in the RAAF, is supporting the operation as an operations clerk. 

When not in uniform, Corporal Penna is the owner of an accommodation company and manages 20 short-stay apartments. He has also been president of the Southbank residents association for almost a decade, convener of the Southbank owner’s corporation network and has a newspaper column in the Southbank local news. 

“In that business, I am at the top of the food chain and I have a team of staff,” Corporal Penna said.

“But in uniform, I take orders and do as I am asked. I am not as stressed and I am making a difference.”

Corporal Penna has taken leave from his civilian role to support an ADF operation before. 

He deployed to the Middle East in 2010 to serve in the Force Communications Unit.

“At times it is a challenge, in particular when I deployed to the Middle East,” Corporal Penna said.

“It was hard for my employer, and my manager in the ADF sometimes found it difficult to reconcile my uniformed role with my civilian level of authority.

“I see the interpersonal skills are the same, working hard is the same, my pride in my work is the same.

“My reserve work gives me an opportunity to make a difference to my community.

“You need to chill out occasionally and I appreciate being relatively junior for this.

“I love the diversity of the Reserves and the opportunity to work with people from so many other backgrounds.”