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Facing down another
Soldiers deploy on Op Queensland Flood Assist II to help in another flood-ravaged January
Cpl Max Bree
AS FLOODWATERS receded and
the road to Bundaberg reopened,
7 Bde soldiers headed to the devas-
tated area under police escort.
Soldiers from 2/14LHR (QMI) dis-
mounted to find the town relatively
untouched on the afternoon of January
30. But after crossing into North
Bundaberg the next day, devastation
greeted Tprs Brody Young, Ben Wallis
and their fellow cavalrymen.
"It was destroyed. Everything cov-
ered in mud, it was just wrecked," Tpr
Young said. "Houses were lifted off
their stumps and moved.
"I've never seen streets that were
two feet [61cm] under mud or you
walk into a house and there's eight
inches [20cm] of mud in the lounge
With 5000 people displaced by the
floods, the soldiers started checking
the North Bundaberg area for bodies
of those who hadn't made it out in
"The first day it was pretty full-
on," Tpr Wallis said. "Just to see the
power that water has, how much stuff
can get wrecked.
"After being there for a couple of
days, you get into a rhythm and start
to work through."
After two days searching, the
soldiers found themselves also
assisting the RSPCA to look after pets
left behind in their owners' rush to
The force then started helping the
"Mud Army" clear damaged appli-
ances, waterlogged furniture and car-
pets from homes devastated by the
floodwater, which rose to 3m in some
"There were washing machines in
bedrooms, fridges in bedrooms. It was
pretty full-on," Tpr Wallis said.
"The mud we've been walking in
isn't all that deep but when you're lift-
ing quite heavy stuff like cupboards
and fridges and they're all covered in
mud, you get mud all over you."
Residents were asked to sign a
waiver before soldiers entered their
houses, but no-one had a problem with
it, according to Tpr Wallis.
"They were ecstatic, everybody's
house we went to was more than
happy for us to get in and help them,"
he said. "They couldn't be more
appreciative from what I could tell."
Tpr Young said the locals put on a
good reception for the soldiers all over
"When you're in the shops or
they're driving in a car next to you,
everyone's thanking you," he said.
The 209 soldiers that deployed
as part of the Emergency Support
Force were expected to head home
on February 8, when sappers from
2CER finished repairing a bridge into
Choppers pluck survivors from rising waters
Cpl Max Bree
WITH Bundaberg inundated by flood-
water from the swollen Burnett River,
Army Black Hawks appeared in the
grey sky to pluck stranded people from
rooftops, balconies and cars.
About 30 soldiers from 5 Avn Regt
were recalled from Christmas leave to
take four Black Hawks to Bundaberg on
The first two aircraft arrived and
began hoisting up residents who were
stranded by rising water. The Black
Hawk's fierce rotor downwash meant
the aircraft needed to be 100 feet above
During his aircraft's first day on the
job, loadmaster Cpl Brett Hoy winched
down the other aircrewman onto a 1m
square landing to rescue four people.
"It was really tricky to get the left-
hand crewman down there safely. [It
was] about 20m down," he said.
But those being rescued seemed
determined to record the moment on
camera, according to Cpl Hoy.
"The first four we rescued, I think
they were Japanese tourists, they had
their iPhones out taking photos on the
way up," he said.
"Another two people rescued later
were pretty concerned about the winch
cable when they were coming up. Once
we got them into the cabin they realised
they were safe and relaxed a bit."
The two 5 Avn Regt choppers
winched a total of 16 people to safety
during their first day of flying, as well
as multiple passengers who were loaded
on the ground, before two extra Black
Hawks arrived from Townsville the next
day.With the arrival of civilian rescue
helicopters, the Black Hawks began
transporting displaced people around
"We moved into our bread and butter
of moving people and they moved into
their bread and butter of winch recov-
eries," Cpl Hoy said. "We've got an
aircraft that can lift more than they can."
One of the Black Hawks moved peo-
ple stranded at a primary school while
Cpl Hoy's crew evacuated the residents
of a retirement village.
"We moved 14 or 15 litters with
elderly people who were incapacitated,"
he said. "We also had people with
wheelchairs and walking frames. It was
a bit tricky having to make room and
figure out how many of them we could
fit."The next day the 5 Avn Regt crews
started transporting food, water and
other necessities around the area and
by the end of the third day had moved
about 500 people.
Cpl Hoy was also sent out of the
chopper to assess some damaged
"We saw some homes that looked
similar to those in the Grantham
floods," he said.
"All the furniture was pushed up on
the side of rooms, there was a car full of
water that hadn't drained out yet."
The four choppers flew about 100
hours between them before heading
back to Townsville on February 2.
Air aid: Aircrewmen Cpls Scott Ruehland and Brett Hoy deliver fresh fruit
to residents cut off by the floods near South Kolan in the Bundaberg area.
Natural disaster: Many houses in the Bundaberg area were cut off by rising floodwaters. Photos by Cpl Janine Fabre
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