With tasks piling up in regional NSW following the one-in-100-year flooding, 51 members of the Air Force were called in to join Army and Navy personnel on Operation NSW Flood Assist.
CAPTION: Air Force personnel remove flood-damaged items from local homes and streets in Port Macquarie during Operation NSW Flood Assist. Photo by Private Jacob Hilton.
Deploying within 36 hours, the RAAF contingent settled into camps on the state’s Mid North Coast before heading into communities including Wauchope, Grafton, Port Macquarie, Kempsey and Macksville to help clean up.
Many of the tasks fell into the ‘general duties’ category, like debris clearance, and fencing removal and repair.
But Squadron Leader Tracey Moran said the RAAF members also had a focus on getting local businesses back up and running.
“We’ve been assisting farmers with clearing debris and rubbish to enable them to get back to their core business,” Squadron Leader Moran said.
“RAAF personnel helped at local berry and cucumber farms, enabling farmers to commence preparation for future crops.
“Tasks that would normally take farmers weeks or months to complete after the floods are being achieved by ADF personnel in one or two days.”
Squadron Leader Moran said the RAAF contingent included personnel with a variety of specialisations who were used to supporting natural disasters through other means.
“RAAF typically supports major operations through air support, including air transport, air traffic control, catering and other airfield services, which was the case on Operation Bushfire Assist,” she said.
“In contrast, RAAF’s focus for Operation NSW Flood Assist has been to form work parties to clear debris, with minimal focus on individual specialisations, merely a member’s ability to work as part of a general duties team.”
RAAF support for Operation NSW Flood Assist also included supply drops to isolated farm communities from Hercules C-130 aircraft.
Squadron Leader Moran said while the community appreciated the help they were given, the personnel who deployed also found being part of the work parties rewarding..