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ADF Support During Bushfire Crisis

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3rd Combat Service Support Battalion and 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment convoy, arrives in Puckapunyul from Townsville, to marry up with the combined contingent of the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment and the Kumul Force 17 from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, in support of Operation Bushfire Assist.  Image Credit: PTE Madhur Chitnis Copyright: © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence

The bushfire crisis is the Australian Defence Force’s main effort right now.

Over 6,000 full time and reserve personnel are providing support in the field, at sea, in the air, and from Defence bases across fire affected regions.

Around 3,000 Reservists are supporting Operation Bushfire Assist.  

The 3rd Combat Service Support Battalion and 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment convoy (pictured above), travelled from Townsville to Puckapunyul this week to marry up with the combined contingent of the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment and the Kumul Force 17 from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force.

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Australian Army soldiers of the Petroleum Detachment, 10 FSB establishing a Refuelling Point Aviation with the help of CALTEX for Multinational Aviation Task Group aircraft at Majura training area, Canberra, ACT. Aircraft to be refueled will include Australian MRH90s and Royal New Zealand Air Force NH 90s. These rotary-wing aircraft are continuing to support RFS operations in Southern NSW and ACT.   Image Credit: Department of Defence.

ADF personnel have been working with state and territory authorities since September 2019 in response to Australia’s bushfire crisis. This support will continue for as long as needed.

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3rd Combat Service Support Battalion and 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment convoy, arrives at Puckapunyul from Townsville, to marry up with the combined contingent of the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment, and the Kumul Force 17 from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, in support of Operation Bushfire Assist.  Image Credit: PTE Madhur Chitnis Copyright: © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence  

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Australian Army 9th Combat Services Support Battalion set up a field kitchen at Kingscote Airport to assist the Salvation Army volunteers to provide catering support for approximately 500 CFS and SES personnel.  Image Credit: Department of Defence.

The Chief of the Defence Force appointed Major General Justin ‘Jake’ Ellwood, DSC as the Emergency ADF National Support Coordinator, working in support of state and territory authorities.

WHERE ARMY PERSONNEL ARE LOCATED:

Victoria – Joint Task Force (JTF) 646

Daily highlights

· Engineer teams will disembark HMAS Adelaide to support route clearance tasks near the Victorian and New South Wales border.

· Around 100 Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) personnel are now undergoing orientation and induction into the Joint Task Force structure at Puckapunyal.

· MV Sycamore has completed a transfer of personnel from Sydney to HMAS Choules off Mallacoota.

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Reservists attached to C Company and 1st Military Police Battalion assisting with movements of assets to Kangaroo Island, SA including the loading of armoured vehicles on the ferry from Cape Jervis in support of Op Bushfire Assist.  Image Credit: Department of Defence

Ongoing activity

· Rotary wing aircraft continue to deliver fodder to areas of need.

· HMAS Choules is continuing resupply support to Mallacoota.

· ADF teams are on standby to assist in the disposal of deceased livestock at the request of local authorities.

· Teams continue route clearance and assessment through coastal and alpine areas, with the main effort focused on the Princes Highway.

· An Army reconnaissance team using Protected Mobility Vehicles continued route clearance and assessment between Orbost and Mallacoota.

· ADF presence in Mallacoota continues, along with support activities in the region.

· Support is being provided to evacuee camps, Department of Human Services (DHS) recovery centres and emergency service personnel.

· Air support. Severe weather conditions have affected rotary wing support of Joint Task Force 646 with flights postponed over the last 24-48 hours. Weather conditions are being monitored, with ADF helicopters ready to continue transporting fire fighters and evacuees, and provide food and equipment when flights resume.

· Two Australian and two Singaporean CH-47 Chinook helicopters are operating from RAAF Base East Sale to provide support to firefighting operations and humanitarian assistance to remote and isolated communities.

· Air traffic controllers are providing a flight information service at the Bairnsdale Airport to support local authorities to manage the high volume of air traffic currently utilising the airport.

· A P-8A Poseidon aircraft is regularly conducting reconnaissance flights over fire-affected areas, and the following aircraft are conducting support flights:

o 2 x C-17A Globemaster IIIs from RAAF Base Amberley

o 2 x C-130J Hercules from RAAF Base Richmond

o 3 x C-27J Spartans from RAAF Base East Sale.

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An Australian Army Rheinmetall MAN HX 77, gets refuelled at Puckapunyul, after arriving from Townsville, in support of Operation Bushfire Assist.  Image Credit: PTE Madhur Chitnis Copyright: © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence

· Health and Pastoral Support. Air Force is operating a medical facility at RAAF Base East Sale and providing pastoral care to support JTF operations. Each JTF is staffed with appropriately credentialed mental health professionals to provide mental health support.

· UAS Support. A Small Unmanned Aerial System (SUAS) (Wasp) is based at RAAF base East Sale to conduct ISR operations in support of JTF646.

· Mobility operations. Engineering personnel and equipment have been made available to supplement state capabilities in clearing and reopening roads in fire affected areas of Victoria. Other tasks include removing debris from public areas and clearing fire breaks and fire trails.

· Damage Assessments. Support is being provided to the Victorian state authorities to undertake rapid damage assessments in regional Victoria. The ADF is enhancing search and rescue assessment capacity with additional vehicles and drivers.

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Australian Army soldier Private Noel Moutia, refuels a 40M Medium Truck, after arriving from Townsville, in support of Operation Bushfire Assist.  Image Credit: PTE Madhur Chitnis Copyright: © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence

New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory – JTF 1110

Daily highlights

· ADF teams continue to establish and support distribution centres in Batemans Bay, Lake Conjola, Milton, Shoalhaven and Cobargo.

· HMAS Adelaide will operate in the vicinity of Eden and disembark engineer elements to support route clearance tasks for Joint Task Force 1110.

· Two EC135 helicopters have conducted fire mapping to support the Rural Fire Service near the Australian Capital Territory. This will continue today (16 January).

· Route clearance of the Monaro Highway south of Bombala will continue and is expected to be complete today (16 January).

· Army engineers have completed a reconnaissance to scope the required work at Eden Woodchip Mill with further ADF engineer support recommended.

· Water resupply continues with a stock water drop of 60,000 litres to Gilmore (near Tumut), bulk water resupply in the area of Belowra and 1,000 litre distribution to Nimmitabel.

· Two Royal New Zealand Navy NH-90 helicopters transported Australian Army personnel and equipment to RAAF Base Fairbairn in order to support the RFS Stockyard Spur fire break clearing.

· HMAS Adelaide’s MH-60R helicopter conducted reconnaissance of potentially isolated communities around the Clyde River Valley.

· Support to the distribution of food aid and donated goods continues in the area of Batemans Bay and a new distribution point has been set-up in Conjola. Further distribution points will be established in Milton, Shoalhaven and Cobargo areas.

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Australian Army soldier Warrant Officer Class 2 Patty O'Connor, guides a 40M Medium Truck arrived from Townsville, at Puckpunyul, in support of Operation Bushfire Assist. Image Credit: PTE Madhur Chitnis Copyright: © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence

Ongoing activity

· Defence is delivering catering support to Bega, with more than 350 meals being provided daily. Fodder is also being delivered in the area.

· ADF teams are providing support to the Department of Human Services recovery centres.

· HMAS Adelaide continues operation in the vicinity of Jervis Bay with additional force elements taken aboard. The Landing Helicopter Dock is ready to support operations with New Zealand NH-90 helicopters.

· Support continues around the Canberra and Tumut area with clearance, logistics, medium and heavy plant tasks and driver support to Rural Fire Service (RFS) logistics.

· Engineer task groups are providing support throughout the state, including heavy plant work at the Bondo Forest and Eden Woodchip Mill and construction of a 70km long firebreak in Bondo State Forest.

· Army engineers continue clearance tasks from Maitland, Mudgee, Nowra and Southern Highlands.

· Primary health care team support is being provided in Tumbarumba, Cooma, Bega and Brindabella.

· Two Fleetliner fuel tankers around Holbrook are providing 120,000 litres per day to local communities.

· Accommodation and meals are being provided on HMAS Albatross.

· Air support: MRH-90 Taipan, MH-60R Seahawk and EC-135 helicopters continue fire mapping, surveillance, and search and rescue support operations supporting New South Wales Rural Fire Service throughout the Hunter, Greater Sydney, Illawarra, Australian Capital Territory and southern regions.

· Four Australian Army MRH-90 helicopters and crew are providing support out of Luscombe Airfield (Holsworthy).

· Recovery operations. The ADF is providing personnel and equipment to undertake initial recovery tasks as identified and assessed by NSW Government based on advice from specialist ADF advisors. These tasks are in Tamworth, Wollondilly, Nowra, Mudgee, Maitland and Wingecarribee.

· NSW Police has assigned Assistant Commissioner Michael Willing APM to JTF 1110 to strengthen communication and coordination with the ADF.

· Army Support Teams have been liaising with communities in Wagga Wagga, Tumut, Holbrook, Cooma, Jindabyne, Tumbarumba, Jingellic, Bega, Bermagui and Eden townships.

· Health and Pastoral Support. Army has established a role one medical facility to Holsworthy Barracks and is providing pastoral care to support Joint Task Force operations.

South Australia and Tasmania – JTF 1111

Daily highlights

• Kangaroo Island: ADF teams clearance of tracks under power lines to allow access for SA Power maintenance fleet to re-establish power to the southern half of Kangaroo Island.

• Route clearance of hazards and obstacles on South Coast Road and Cape du Couedic road re-established 2WD access to the lighthouse.

• The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Water Treatment Facility has been established in Vivonne Bay, providing up to 12,000 litres of fresh water in cooperation with SA Water. NZDF engineers supported repair tasks in the area.

• Water Purification at Kingscote has so far generated 1,600,000L of Water.

• Two Australian Army CH-47 helicopters continue support the island, including the transfers of volunteer firefighters and fodder drops.

• An Australian Army catering detachment, helping to feed of the influx of personnel conducting support tasks on the island

• Defence personnel conducted further livestock burials, fire containment tasks, firebreak preparation and recovery of civilian vehicles from the Parndana region.

• Damage assessments route clearance was conducted in Flinders Chase National Park to enable National Park SA and Tourism activities.

• Adelaide area: Army personnel have arrived at Cleland Wildlife Park to aid in Koala feeding and habitat establishment.

Ongoing activity

· JTF 1111 remains prepared to coordinate Koala Rescue at Warradale Barracks to support injured animal care.

· ADF teams are assisting with repairs to farms and infrastructure, roadside maintenance, clearing fallen trees and transporting up to 20000 litres of water for local farms and livestock in the Adelaide Hills.

· Air support. P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft reconnaissance flights over fire-affected areas in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. This aircraft is operating from RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia.

· Army support teams are disposing of deceased livestock and wildlife on Kangaroo Island. The teams are also assisting with fire containment tasks, equipment provisions, road clearance and fence repairs, removing fallen trees and replacing roadside markers.

· Soldiers and chaplains have been supporting vulnerable or at-risk members of the community, including farmers and vineyard owners.

· ADF personnel are helping with property clean-up for residents near Cudlee Creek (around Adelaide).

· Army catering staff are assisting in the provision of meals for South Australia Country Fire Service personnel.

· A Civil-Military Cooperation Liaison Officer team is helping coordinate tasks for the greater Adelaide area.

BACKGROUND

· There are three Joint Task Forces co-ordinating the ADF’s effort:

o JTF 646 Victoria: Based on Army’s 4th Brigade, with support elements from across the ADF. RAAF Base East Sale is the central hub for the Defence response in southern areas.

o JTF 1110 New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory: Based on Army’s 5th Brigade, with support elements from across the ADF. Holsworthy Barracks is the central hub for the Defence response across NSW and the ACT.

o JTF 1111 South Australia and Tasmania: Based on Army’s 9th Brigade, with support elements from across the ADF. Keswick Barracks is the central hub for the Defence response across South Australia and Tasmania.

· Defence is also providing support to emergency services personnel in Western Australia to support firefighting efforts.

RESERVE CALL OUT ARRANGEMENTS

· Call Out of Reserves for this bushfire crisis has been authorised by the Governor-General, as part of the wider call up of the ADF.

· The Call Out is focused on 1st, 3rd, 6th, 7th and 17th Brigades and Reservists from the 2nd Division, specifically the 4th, 5th and 9th Brigades, who are forming the basis of the three Joint Task Forces.

· The Call Out will involve up to 3,000 Reservists and commenced progressively from 5 January 2020.

FUTURE SUPPORT

· Defence is facilitating the transport of additional fire retardant from the United States using our own air lift capacity, with assistance from international partners.

INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE

· The Government of Japan is providing two C-130 Hercules aircraft and associated personnel. The Japan Self-Defense Force aircraft are expected to arrive today (16 January) and will be based at RAAF Base Richmond.

· Defence has accepted the Republic of Fiji’s offer to provide a platoon of engineers, who will work alongside Australian Defence Force personnel operating out of East Gippsland.

· The New Zealand Defence Force and the Singapore Armed Forces are providing support through military assets and personnel.

o All Singapore Armed Forces and New Zealand Defence Force elements are now integrated into the operation.

o The third New Zealand Defence Force NH-90 helicopter has arrived at Nowra.

o 100 light engineers from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force will integrate into JTF 646 once deployment checks are complete.

· Although appreciative of additional offers from our partners, the ADF does not require further assistance at this stage.

DEFENCE BASE SUPPORT

The following bases are prepared to provide accommodation to evacuees if needed:

· RAAF Base East Sale , RAAF Base Williams, Latchford Barracks, RAAF Base Edinburgh, RAAF Base Richmond, RAAF Base Williamtown, RAAF Base Wagga, HMAS Harman

The following bases are providing additional support:

· RAAF Base East Sale is supporting Defence aircraft providing emergency response.

· RAAF Base Richmond is providing airbase access and support for Large Air Tanker and spotter aircraft.

· RAAF Base Wagga is providing refuelling support.

· HMAS Albatross is providing accommodation and meals for RFS personnel.

· Marrangaroo Training Area has area has been made available for RFS operations.

· HMAS Harman has a reception centre available for evacuees, and will provide emergency accommodation as required.