Pandemic keeps nursing officer on his toes

Published on CAPT Zoe Griffyn (author), LAC John Solomon (photographer)

Location(s): Colac, Vic

Topic(s): Operation COVID-19 ASSIST

Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Commander Lee McMahon, Officer In Charge of the military contingent at the Colac, Victoria COVID-19 testing site during Operation COVID-19 ASSIST. (photo: LAC John Solomon)
Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Commander Lee McMahon, Officer In Charge of the military contingent at the Colac, Victoria COVID-19 testing site during Operation COVID-19 ASSIST.

Nursing Officer Lieutenant Commander Lee McMahon has had a busy year on the frontline of the COVID-19 response.

Earlier in the year he deployed to Burnie, Tasmania, as an ADF team lead, to assist with running the emergency department at the local hospital.

This time he is supporting the Victorian Government and its agencies as a testing site lead in the town of Colac, as part of his second deployment to Operation COVID-19 ASSIST.

“My team works at the sites where Victorians are getting swabbed for COVID-19 tests,” Lieutenant Commander McMahon said.

“My role is to act as site manager and liaise with government representatives to keep things running smoothly so my team can focus on their work.”

Lieutenant Commander McMahon believes the ADF plays an important role in helping the Australian population feel safe.

“The ADF collectively brings a sense of reliability and certainty to a situation like this,” Lieutenant Commander McMahon said.

“We can be relied upon, which is a key thing. The public knows that if Defence says it will be there, it will be there.

“This is especially important for a small country town like Colac, which is not as equipped to deal with big changes.”

There are many similarities between Lieutenant Commander McMahon’s regular role and his current deployment.

“This is a management and leadership role which doesn’t change,” Lieutenant Commander McMahon said.

“Whether you’re leading a small ship’s emergency team through exercises or you’re running a site in downtown Colac you’re using the same skill sets.”

Lieutenant Commander McMahon started his Navy career at the age of 17.

“I joined the Navy when I was young and became an Able Seaman Marine Technician,” he said.

“I stayed for five years and left the Navy to pursue various other jobs, including nursing.

“After 10 years of nursing, I re-joined the Navy as a Nursing Officer.

“My initial time in the Navy gave me a good understanding of how the Navy works.

“It was that awareness that helped me make the decision to re-join when I was older.

“It’s a career that changes. If I had stayed as an associate health manager in my previous workplace, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to jump out of aeroplanes or go to Afghanistan,” he said.

“The Navy has given me the opportunity to do so many things I never would have if I hadn’t re-joined.”