While many Australian soldiers are returning home for Anzac Day, some will travel back to the communities they served in during Operation Bushfire Assist 2019-20.
Troops are taking part in commemorations in communities where they have a strong connection – either the place they think of as home, or where they bonded with locals during the devastating summer fires.
Around 130 officers and soldiers are on the move across the nation, visiting places like Eden on the NSW’s south coast, Mallacoota in Victoria and Kangaroo Island in South Australia.
Commander Forces Command, Major General Matt Pearse, AM, said it was important for soldiers to preserve the connections they have built in some of the worst fire-affected areas.
“As the COVID-19 restrictions ease, we are taking this chance to get some of our soldiers back to the areas they were working in during the fires,” Major General Pearse said.
“This is an opportunity to strengthen Army’s commitment and contribution to our community.
“Many of those communities have asked us to make a particular effort to get our people back to show their appreciation for the work they did.”
Troops from brigades, training centres and units in Brisbane, Darwin, Adelaide and Sydney will be among those travelling to fire-affected communities.
Adelaide-based soldiers from the 1st and 9th Brigades will be in Kangaroo Island, with the NSW-based 5th Brigade sending troops from Canberra to Eden.
“While we’re always working hard to connect with everyone who lives nearby, there is of course often another place we think of as home, or where we have a deep connection with a community that time and distance cannot erode,” Major General Pearse said.
“As we get back to our core business of training for war, it’s good for us to pause and gather with the communities we are from, and where we have served during these extraordinary times.
“It’s an opportunity to return, reunite and remember.”