The day after the worst flood to hit Gympie in living memory lifted the level of the Mary River at the weir to 22.96m above river height, the ADF rolled into town under the leadership of a familiar face.
Brigadier Mark Armstrong is the very person who coordinated the Queensland flood recovery efforts at the district disaster coordination cells not just here at Gympie, but also at the Gold Coast, Ipswich, and Brisbane.
Gympie is proud to claim Mr Armstrong, who was at the June 2021 dedication of a war memorial to First Nations soldiers in Memorial Park when he was a Colonel of the 11th Battalion.
As a Brigadier, he also attended a service at Wondai for their Reserve Forces Day Recognition Service in July of 2022.
And now, he’s been named as the first-ever dedicated Chief Officer of the new autonomous Queensland State Emergency Service.
He has had a stellar career in the Australian Defence Force and major multi-national corporations, one that has lasted a quarter century, and will use that hands-on experience to help form the new SES.
Work is well underway for both the SES and Marine Rescue Queensland (MRQ) to be established as entities in their own right hosted by the Queensland Police Service by mid-2024.
As part of these reforms, the SES will have its own operational budget and will also benefit from more staff and more resources, including crucial safety equipment, vehicles, and vessels.
Mr Armstrong said he was honoured to be selected to lead the dedicated volunteers and staff of Queensland’s SES.
“I look forward to engaging with the many important stakeholders as part of the reform process underway,” he said.
Police and Community Safety Minister Mark Ryan said everyone sees the extraordinary efforts SES personnel dedicated to the safety of their communities and that Mr Armstrong’s appointment will enhance this.
“Chief Officer Armstrong’s leadership skills and experience will help build on the important service that the SES provides across Queensland as well as assist in a reform work underway,” Minister Ryan said.
“He will lead a workforce which includes thousands of dedicated and hard-working volunteers who assist communities when they need help the most.”
Eddie Cowie ESM and president of the Queensland State Emergency Service Volunteers Association said the organisation welcomes the appointment of Mark Armstrong.
“We acknowledge his extensive service to our country and know of his significant contributions to major events in Queensland.
“Significant change is in the future of QSES and we are confident his demonstrated leadership and engagement will create an improved, more robust, Queensland SES.
“I look forward to a fruitful engagement with Mark to engage with our volunteers to build preparedness and resilience within communities in Queensland, many of which have been tested recently.”
Chief Officer Mark Armstrong commences work from 5 February 2024 and he will assist with the reform work currently underway before officially assuming operational command of the SES by mid-2024.