Principal gives up holiday to help in virus fight

A school principal gave up his holiday to support Operation COVID-19 Assist.

CAPTION: Squadron Leader Harold Cheung briefs Navy personnel at Sydney Airport during Operation COVID-19 Assist. Photo by Leading Seaman Nadav Harel.

‘Build Your Wing’ is the motto of Buckley Park College in Essendon, a Victorian high school with 1000 students and 130 staff.

Air Force reservist Squadron Leader Harold Cheung is the college’s principal and normally would take a well-earned break over Christmas and into January.

But these are not normal times.

He took the school’s motto to heart and responded to the call for volunteers to support the ADF’s Operation COVID-19 Assist in New South Wales.

“My role as Officer in Charge of Alpha Company is to oversee the command and control of the Defence’s quarantine compliance monitoring program at Sydney Airport and a number of Sydney hotels,” Squadron Leader Cheung said.

His deployment started the day after school broke up last year.

“This has been a great experience – I’ve learnt so much around unit leadership, particularly working in a triservice environment with three platoons operating across seven locations,” he said.

Defence personnel are supporting the NSW Government’s efforts to ensure people arriving at Sydney international airport are safely transported to and checked in at a number of dedicated quarantine hotels.

Squadron Leader Cheung was born in Hong Kong and migrated to Australia when he was seven.

He’s been in education as a teacher and principal for more than 20 years and decided to become a reservist in 2008.

“I wanted to serve my country – where I could expand my skills, meet new people and have some unique experiences along the way,” he said.

While educating and inspiring the next generation of Australians during the week, he spends his weekends – and sometimes his holidays – working to enhance Australia’s national security.

Squadron Leader Cheung’s usual Reserve role is as a training systems officer at Air Force Training Headquarters, RAAF Williams, ensuring there is alignment between workplace requirements and training.

“Anyone thinking of joining the Defence Force should not think twice. It is an incredibly rewarding opportunity to be able to contribute to making the country a safer and better place,” he said.

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