On board HMAS Adelaide as she sailed back into Sydney Harbour on 2 February after deploying to Fiji following the devastation caused by Cylone Yasa on 20 December was a young soldier glad to be home after missing Christmas with family.
CAPTION: Corporal Ben Maddaford on Galoa Island during Operation Fiji Assist. Photo by Corporal Dustin Anderson.
Infantryman-turned-medic Corporal Ben Maddaford of the 1st Close Health Battalion in Brisbane, had provided medical support to 6th Engineer Support Regiment personnel reconstructing the local primary school on Galoa Island in the north of Fiji.
He said it was a good feeling to be part of the team rebuilding the school, but there was also an unexpected connection to the place.
“Usually when you deploy it’s easy to focus on the work because there aren’t reminders of your family,” he said.
“But when I walked into the kindergarten at Galoa and saw all the kids toys, it really hit home that I was missing Christmas with my wife and my three-year-old daughter.”
Although it was difficult being away from his family, Corporal Maddaford said the hard work was worth it.
“Seeing the school finished and knowing we’re leaving something behind for the locals is really special.”
Corporal Maddaford said his medical support on Operation Fiji Assist was similar to what he did in Australia, but the island location provided new challenges.
“I conducted daily COVID-19 temperature checks, monitored the wet-bulb temperature and provided advice to commanders in regards to work/rest regulations to limit the risk of injury,” he said.
“I was also there for any injuries or illnesses you’d normally see a doctor for.
“But, instead of bringing all our equipment, we had to carefully plan what assets the soldiers on the ground might need.
“Everything had to be brought to the island on boats and then walked ashore so we could only carry a limited amount of medical equipment and supplies.”