THREE navy personnel from HMAS Albatross have been honoured with a group bravery citation for their efforts in the 2011 Queensland floods.
Petty Officer Nicholas Anderson, Chief Petty Officer Kerwyn Ballico and Lieutenant Simon Driessen, from HMAS Albatross, along with Commander Scott Palmer, who is now based at Canberra, have been awarded the group bravery award.
The quartet were all part of a navy Sea King helicopter crew conducting evacuation operations in the Laidley area, when they rescued a man from floodwaters west of Brisbane.
Lt Driessen and CMDR Palmer piloted the aircraft, Chief PO Ballico was the winch operator and PO Anderson was the crewman on the end of the winch wire.
It was the evening of January 11, 2011, at the height of the Queensland floods, and the Sea King crew was conducting evacuation operations when they spotted a man being swept along Laidley Creek.
The helicopter crew attempted to winch the man to safety and came within reach before being forced to pull away.
The man was swept further down the river where he was able to grab hold of a tree and was eventually winched aboard the helicopter.
Their efforts have now been recognised by Governor General Quentin Bryce, who has announced the group bravery citation for their efforts on that day.
PO Anderson was at the bottom of the winch as it was being lowered over the floodwater – he got to within a metre of the man, however was unable to grab him.
As the man was swept towards a tree, the pilots manoeuvred the craft away, moving PO Anderson, on the rope, out of its path.
The stricken man managed to grab hold of the tree and pull himself out of the water into the tree canopy.
This allowed the PO Anderson to be lowered into the tree and, after calming the man, connect a harness to him and they were then winched up into the helicopter to safety.
Quick to downplay any suggestion of remarkable bravery, PO Anderson said he and his fellow crewmen were just doing their job.
“It’s a group thing,” he said.
“At that point in time I'm just doing what I'm trained to do.”
He said he felt “mixed emotions” about the bravery citation.
“We did as much as we could for people ... but obviously there were families that had experienced tragedies,” PO Anderson said.
The official death toll of the 2010-2011 Queensland floods was 38, while six people are still considered missing.
“I’m proud and honoured for the crew’s role but it’s bittersweet.”
A special ceremony recognising the awarding of the citation will be held at a later date.