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Army February 17, 2011
By LCpl Mark Doran
IT WAS the kind of thunder that the sleep- and com-
fort-deprived communities of the Cassowary Coast
were waiting to hear.
Air-assets from 5 Avn Regt in Townsville and the
Army Aviation Training Centre in Oakey thundered into
the regional area bringing troops and vital supplies.
Six Black Hawks, one Chinook and eight Kiowa
aircraft were force-assigned to provide critical Defence
Assistance to the Civil Community (DACC) in the
cyclone-ravaged areas of north Queensland.
The Kiowas were used as observation platforms to
meet the commander's information requirements about
the status of the affected communities, the condition of
roads and the levels of damage to infrastructure such as
The Chinook and Black Hawks were there to move
troops, equipment, water and food into the disaster area.
CO 5 Avn Regt Lt-Col James Brown said it had been
steady work, which gave the commander flexibility to
jump over blocked roads and receive instant information.
"The weather was the biggest challenge for us, all our
aircraft that could fly were flown to Mackay to weather
out the storm because of concerns about the tidal-surge,"
Lt-Col Brown said.
"We had missions which were cut short because
of the weather and a number of tasks were modified
because the cloud cover and rain were too extreme for
Aircraft and crews from 5 Avn Regt were also
involved in the evacuation of Theodore and assisting
Emergency Management Queensland in the Queensland
flood relief efforts at towns such as Emerald, Ipswich,
Biloela and Rockhampton.
The task-force for Op Yasi Assist was formed very
early and had established command and control ele-
ments, under the command of Brig Stuart Smith.
This enabled the local disaster management groups'
requests to be handled through HQ 3 Bde.
Lt-Col Brown said Army Aviation Training Centre
was not an operational unit and the way they responded
to the two urgent DACC requirements had been magnifi-
"As usual, the work we did under the conditions was
a testament to the training and dedication of the air and
ground-crews of 5 Avn Regt, as well as the whole of the
aviation capability," Lt-Col Brown said.
"6 Avn Regt from Holsworthy also responded very
quickly and effectively on incredibly short-notice to look
after the people of Queensland."
ENGINEERS from 3CER res-
cued a stranded couple from their
Mission Beach home, six days after
The couple had been isolated in
their home since the cyclone struck,
due to fallen debris across their 900m
David McWilliam, who has lived
at Mission Beach for three years with
his wife Christina, said the rescue
was a huge relief.
"Now life can get back to normal,
rather than just sitting here, waiting
and wondering when we are going to
get out," he said.
Mr McWilliam said they were well
prepared with food and water, but
going "stir crazy" trapped at home.
He had attempted to cut through
the debris himself, but it wasn't until
3CER arrived that he and Christina
were able to think about leaving.
"I got a small chainsaw and
started to chainsaw a track out but it
was perfectly clear to me that while I
might get a small track, I couldn't get
a vehicle out," he said.
"We got a call saying the Army
were going to help us and they came
with chainsaws and heavy equipment
to move the debris."
Trapped couple rescued
By LCpl Mark Doran
ARMED with chainsaws, axes,
shovels, generators and buck-
ets of compassion 3 Bde sol-
diers attacked the destruction of
Cyclone Yasi with a vengeance.
OC A Coy 51FNQR Maj Steve
Paton said the spirits of local com-
munities were uplifted and quick-
ly followed by a sense of relief
when they saw help arriving.
He said preparations began
two days before the cyclone
hit and the unit concentrated at
Porton Barracks in Cairns after
the destructive winds eased.
"Our roles included route
reconnaissance and establishing
access along the major highways
and roads to key infrastructure,"
Maj Paton said.
"On the first day we trav-
elled from Cairns and Atherton
along the Bruce and Palmerston
Highways to Innisfail and then
cleared south to Mourilyan
Harbour by the first night."
Soldiers from Lavarack
Barracks were quickly deployed
throughout Townsville to help
with the task of removing damage
Lt Tobias Pitt, B Sqn 3/4 Cav
Regt, said the main challenge was
co-ordinating the effort because
all areas were equally affected.
"We started working in the
Gulliver area at noon straight after
Tropical Cyclone Yasi had passed
and finished at dusk each night,"
Lt Pitt said.
"The work was co-ordinat-
ed with the State Emergency
Services Queensland and the
Queensland Police Service cor-
doned the roads we worked on.
Within two days, military
engineers were also working in
towns such as Tully Heads and
Cardwell, which bore much of the
Major tasks for the Recovery
Task Group (RTG) includ-
ed search operations with
Queensland police to account for
residents and distribution of aid.
Tully resident Les Miller,
watching 3CER sappers clear
fallen trees from the Tully State
School, said it was "marvellous"
to see the soldiers at work.
"It was very much appreciated,
don't you worry about that," Mr
"There was such a massive
change to the area when the dig-
gers and the emergency services
came here, it was tremendous."
In recovery: Townsville soldiers help with the clean up of Cardwell after Cyclone Yasi tore through
Photos by Cpl Melina Mancuso
Free at last: David and Christina McWilliam show off
their driveway, liberated from under a mountain of fallen
trees by engineers from 3CER.
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