OP FIJI ASSIST 2016 begins major amphibious move

This article has photo gallery Published on MAJ Kristin Gardiner (author), LSIS Helen Frank (photographer)

Location(s): Koro Island, Fiji

Australian Aid shipping containers on the flight deck of HMAS Canberra.  (photo: LSIS Helen Frank)
Australian Aid shipping containers on the flight deck of HMAS Canberra.

Personnel, plant equipment, tools, heavy vehicles and aid were just some of the material either flown off by Army and Navy MRH-90 Helicopters, or by sea on Landing Craft, as Australia’s humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission gathered significant momentum.

HMAS Canberra, stationed off the Coast of Fiji’s Koro Island, began amphibious operations in earnest, with a major muscle move of material and personnel on 2 March to help those affected by tropical Cyclone Winston which struck on the 20 February.

Commander Joint Task Force 635, Captain Brett Sonter, said the level of devastation on Koro Island would provide a challenge for all personnel involved in the operation.

“Koro Island was directly in the path of Cyclone Winston so subsequently there is very little on the island that hasn’t been damaged in some way,” Captain Sonter said.

“Elements of the landing force proceeding ashore will contain two sections of engineers from the Republic of Fiji Military Force which we have transported from Suva at the request of the Government of Fiji.

“I am confident that the support provided to both the people of the island, and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces will assist in the alleviation of suffering on the island and subsequently foster recovery."

Beach clearance was conducted prior to landing by soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, ensuring the chosen landing sites were clear for craft.

The landing points became hives of activity as all manner of berthing and mechanised capabilities came ashore.

Commander of the Land Force, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Bassingthwaighte, said the force disembarking Canberra was united in its resolve to help out to help the people of Koro Island.

“We have an incredible depth of talented and dedicated men and women involved in this operation,” Lieutenant Colonel Bassingthwaighte said.

“A significant challenge lies ahead for those on the ground, but we know we will make a difference over the coming days.”