Passion to Give up Time for Community, Veteran, Alan Ashman

Disaster Relief Australia | April 2022

veteran reflection

I first heard about Disaster Relief Australia (DRA) by following the journey of another member who has been with DRA for a few years and seeing the operations that he had deployed on. Seeing the great work he’s done as a member of DRA led me to think “this is an organisation that I want to be a part of’.

The moment that made me ‘push the button’ so to speak was when my friend had posted a call-out on his Facebook page that DRA was launching an operation to assist the recent floods in Northern NSW and Southern Queensland. I made contact with my friend and asked him how to join DRA. As luck would have it, he is a DRA Membership Coordinator so he had all the answers and provided me with the guidance I needed to join DRA.

I shortly thereafter submitted an Expression of Interest to join DRA and 2 weeks later, here I am on my first operational deployment, Op Kelliher in Coraki NSW.

My background comprises 2 full-time periods in the Royal Australian Navy. My first period concluded with attaining Warrant Officer Rank and then I later rejoined as a commissioned officer where I attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander (LCDR). I have also been a volunteer member of the Rural Fire Service (RFS) for the past 18 years.

As an RFS volunteer, I have been on many bushfire deployments to Queensland, NSW and Victoria. I have also experienced similar Command & Control, Logistics processes that you employ within DRA, however, what I have not experienced previously was flood disasters and their associated recovery.

After 5 days into my first deployment with DRA, I have found that whilst the daily briefings and the command and control are nearly identical to my RFS experience, it is the comradery, and the friendliness of the deployed members and their passion to give up their time and help this affected community that has really struck a chord with me.

A lasting memory for me from this, my first DRA deployment will be that besides the many new friends I have made, it was the validation that the work that DRA is doing is very much appreciated by the community. After completing a damage assessment for a community member, I had an elderly lady clasp both of my hands and with a tear in her eyes, she said, ‘thank you for assisting us in our time of need’.

That is all I needed to know that I will definitely be seeking to deploy again. I intend to continue a long and lasting relationship with DRA and its members. I also have no hesitation in encouraging my friends both ex-Navy and RFS to join DRA, in fact, I have already started to spread the word.