Ready reservists

Published on FLTLT Daniel Phillips (author), SGT Ray Vance (photographer)

Captain Fabian Purcell, Australian Senior Medical Officer - Middle East Region (photo: SGT Ray Vance)
Captain Fabian Purcell, Australian Senior Medical Officer - Middle East Region

The Australian Defence Force has a long history of operational service and is currently supporting 14 operations overseas and within Australia to protect Australia and its national interests.

Commander Joint Task Force 633, Rear Admiral Trevor Jones, commands forces in the Middle East region and values the support and range of experience that Defence Reservists bring to operations.

“The continued success of our operations is contingent on well-trained and highly skilled personnel from across all services and areas of the Australian Defence Force, including our Defence Reserve personnel,” he said.

“As military professionals, we strive to adapt processes and practice so as to remain ready for current and future operational challenges.

“Defence Reserves bring an additional perspective to our operations as a result of their civilian employment, just as their military service can with their civilian roles.

“In my time as Commander Joint Task Force 633, I have seen our operations benefit from the service given by Reserve personnel, as it will continue to in the future.”

One significant role held by a Navy Reservist is the Australian Senior Medical Officer for the Middle East region.  

On this deployment Captain Fabian Purcell is fulfilling a different position to his previous experiences as a deployed anaesthetist, acting in a more administrative capacity. 

“This job as a medical administrator is quite different to my normal military operational role but I still have a mentoring role in a clinical sense for all the doctors throughout the Middle East,” he said.  

After 27 years of Reserve service with the Navy, Captain Purcell still faces the same challenges in balancing his Reserve life with his civilian job and family but cherishes the opportunities to serve. 

“Time management is the same for all people who lead busy lives I guess,” he said.  

“There are days when I'm stretched, but you join to serve and the privilege and wonderment I have for the people with whom I've served, remains unabated.

“A Reservist on operations often has a high learning curve especially in the headquarters positions and particularly if working outside your normal part of ship, as is the case here.”

Deploying on operations is something Captain Purcell has done many times before and having the support of his family allows him to serve and experience new opportunities. 

“I have an incredibly supportive family who have always accepted me leaving, sometimes at short notice, reinforcing the old adage 'truly they also serve, those that stand and wait',” he said. 

When asked what he’s gained from his time on operational deployments, Captain Purcell reflected on the personal connections as well as experiences he had encountered along the way that remain foremost in his thoughts. 

“I have friends across decades,” he said

“I have seen the very worst of people and nature but also the very best.

“And the best has always outshone and overcome the worst. 

“The adventures are there to seize and live.

“For an adventurous soul the rewards are immense.

“For Reservists operational service is the pinnacle and the rewards remain with you all your life.”

Australia currently has around 400 Australian Defence Force personnel working under Operation ACCORDION providing support to Operations HIGHROAD and MANITOU from Australia’s main logistics base in the Middle East, with Reserve personnel in each element.