Since late last year, the nation has faced a series of unprecedented challenges. Having previously risen up to the challenge of supporting Coalition forces in the Middle East, ADF medical contingents – through Operation Bushfire Assist and Operation COVID-19 Assist – have played a central role in contributing to the national responses.
At home, the ADF has a long and proud history of contributing to the country in times of crisis. In previous years, Joint Task Force groupings have been deployed domestically in order to combat the Queensland floods (2011) and the fallout from Cyclone Yasi. Yet the recent bushfire and COVID-19 operations have been some of the most significant activities carried out on home soil.
Medical evacuations and logistics operations formed a key component of Operation Bushfire Assist, which saw about 200 ADF personnel, including about 100 reservists, supporting efforts in regional and rural Australia. Yet before this operation was able to conclude in late March, the country was struck by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aside from contributions to the whole-of-government response (including contact tracing and logistics), the ADF provided key specialist personnel in support of the Department of Health.
- is supporting Emergency Management Australia-led planning for the National Communicable Disease Incidence of National Significance Plan in response to COVID-19.
- is supporting the Department of Health with logistics and specialist staff.
- has provided health, logistics and movements support to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Border Force repatriation and care of Australian nationals on Christmas Island and Howard Springs via RAAF bases Learmonth and Darwin.
- has been supplying clinical and epidemiological support to the Department of Health National Incident Room since early February 2020.
While this mission has been anything but easy for frontline workers, the ADF draws on a wealth of skill and experience honed through Middle East and humanitarian deployments. In previous years, Australians from all service branches have swelled the ranks of the US-led NATO hospital at Kabul Airport, providing a range of services – including routine and primary care, life-saving emergency resuscitation, a blood bank, trauma surgery and dental treatment.
Now, more than ever, is the time to reflect on the commitment these men and women make to keeping Australia secure.