The Australian Government has recently responded to a request from the Western Australian government for the provision of Defence support to bushfire fighting efforts in the South West of WA.
Soldiers from the Australian Army’s 13 Brigade and several sailors from HMAS Stirling were deployed to Manjimup to establish temporary accommodation for fire-fighters and possible evacuees from the surrounding area that were threatened by the fire danger.
Able Seaman Daniel Hancock from Port Kennedy, a chef in the Junior Sailor’s main galley at HMAS Stirling, was deployed with the soldiers to provide meals while they supported the fire fighting efforts.
“I got the call up at the start of Operations Northcliffe Assist to assist 13 Brigade,” Daniel said.
“It’s very unusual for a Navy chef to do the cooking with an Army Detachment, I’ve never done an outdoor field camp kitchen before, it’s very rare that we get tasked outside of our ship environment.
“I found it exciting.”
Daniel not only found the environment different, but also the equipment he had at his disposal to feed the soldiers from 13 Brigade.
“Pretty much all I had to work with in the camp was an industrial BBQ to cook on so I was doing a lot of stir-fries, cooking grill fish and chicken, and for breakfast time things like omelets and pancakes,” he said.
“Cooking with just a BBQ gets you thinking outside the box.”
Daniel’s cooking must have hit the mark as there were no complaints whatsoever.
“The soldiers loved the food, they’ve told me that is was the best food that they’ve had in quite awhile, so it made me feel proud to be involved with the operation and helping them out,” Daniel said.
Originally from Lismore in New South Wales and one of 10 siblings, Daniel joined the Navy 10 years ago as a direct entry chef, serving on major and minor fleet ships and sailing to many and varied locations, including a deployment to Afghanistan in 2010.
As someone who enjoys cooking, Daniel likes to see other people enjoy his efforts, plying his skills to provide three meals a day to the soldiers.
“They do a great job supporting the fire-fighters so I tried to spoil them,” he said.
“I’ve even cooked dessert for them on the BBQ, so it was different and unusual for me to cook this way.
“I’m pretty sure the next time they go out in the field with their own cooks they’re going to have a tough time to keep up.”
Approximately 40 Army soldiers from the Brigade’s Irwin Barracks at Karrakatta travelled in 10 trucks to transport and construct the tent accommodation in the township of Manjimup.
The soldiers erected 20 tents and camp stretchers and provided tables, chairs and lighting to support up to 200 temporary occupants.