Military-civilian partnerships crucial for BUSHFIRE ASSIST

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Ryan Zerbe (author), ABIS Thomas Sawtell (photographer)

Location(s): Bega, NSW

Topic(s): HMAS Adelaide (L01), Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST

Commander Brandon Ikimau, RAN, of the Amphibious Task Group, left, greets rescue volunteers in Bega, NSW during Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20 (photo: ABIS Thomas Sawtell)
Commander Brandon Ikimau, RAN, of the Amphibious Task Group, left, greets rescue volunteers in Bega, NSW during Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20

When a significant military force needs to work collaboratively with a civilian population, as is happening across multiple states as part of Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20, a Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) link between the two is essential.

Managing the connection between organisations like the Rural Fire Service and New South Wales Police on the state’s south coast has fallen to Commander Brandon Ikimau, who is embarked in HMAS Adelaide.

Commander Ikimau is part of the Australian Amphibious Task Group command staff shaping the maritime response, and has been working with local state officials to identify areas where the ADF can support in bushfire response and recovery.

“Being a CIMIC liaison means you’re constantly coordinating and planning with civilian agencies, emergency services or government departments, who can inform you about the local situation and also support the ADF as we execute our mission to render assistance,” Commander Ikimau said.

“We’ve had liaison officers on the ground in communities and emergency centres since deploying the task group and they form the vital link between the Amphibious Task Group and the community.”

“They provide the conduit in which communities can articulate their needs, be that medical services; logistics support to get water, food or fuel into isolated areas, air mobility via our aircraft; or support to the firefighting effort by making our embarked heavy machinery and personnel available or conducting rotary wing overflights of fire fronts, in order to gain intelligence on the fire threat.”

Commander Ikimau said that while the immediate threat to life had waned, the recovery effort will require an enduring relationship between the ADF and administrations in impacted areas.

“While there are areas of the fire-impacted states returning to normal, Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20 will continue for some time and our collaborative relationship with local authorities will remain strong in order for the ADF to provide the maximum effect.”

“We will continue to build our bonds with state and local agencies in order to keep responding to their needs as requested.”

Adelaide and Choules have been supporting Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20 since early January, providing support to communities off the New South Wales and Victorian coasts respectively.

Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20 imagery is available on the Defence Image Gallery:
https://images.defence.gov.au/S20192970.