Biggest global military op helping Australia as fires burn
The biggest multinational military force in Australian domestic history is now in operation with a record number of troops, aircraft and ships helping combat the fallout from the national bushfire crisis.
And the list of their tasks is now running into the several hundred requiring three joint task forces in four States and the ACT to co-ordinate their movements.
ADF's Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20 national co-ordinator Major General Jake Ellwood said there was no task his troops weren't now involved in from civilian transfers from fire zones, collecting and disposing of dead wildlife and putting out spot fires.
In NSW, Army engineers were assessing bridges, clearing roads and a navy clearance dive team were recovering a downed civilian chopper while in Victoria personnel were moving fire fighters and evacuees and deploying medical and mental health teams as well conducting drone reconnaissance.
In South Australia there were farm repairs and fire containment lines being conducted, ADF vets dealing with livestock and native animals and newly formed platoons of woodcutters taking down trees.
"Their faces are charcoal black and smiling, but not smiling because of the circumstances but because they can be there to provide a helping hand and they all feel they are making a difference which they are," he said.
Maj Gen Ellwood said there were now 5600 ADF personnel including 2800 reservists, 261 personnel from other countries including Singapore, Fiji, PNG and New Zealand including helicopter crews who were directly involved in operations post last month's White Island/Whakaari volcano eruption tragedy that killed 18 people and injured many more.
There were a total of three warships, 19 helicopters and 12 aircraft involved in operations and 508 civilians were being housed at ADF bases.
Perhaps telling for the summer season ahead, the ADF is also co-ordinating the cargo of more fire retardant stocks from the United States.
Maj Gen Ellwood - a highly decorated commander including a Distinguished Service Cross for his leadership in Iraq, US Legion of Merit for his time in Afghanistan and Commander British Forces Commendation for service in Kosovo - said many of those involved in the operation now, came from their holiday leave, willingly knowing the sacrifice for their country or in the case of foreign troops, for their colleagues.
"The statistics I provide doesn't tell half the story, maybe not even quarter of the story, there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of tasks going on every day by people just doing good and you would want nothing else," he said.
"We are exceptionally proud of the work being done but again this work being done to help support the fantastic Emergency Management Services and the community."