JOHN Hooper returned to Stawell after spending nearly two weeks in Greece helping in the aftermath of the recent wildfires.
Mr Hooper was sent to Greece as part of a national multi-agency response team which provided emergency assistance following the devastating fires near Athens, that had killed at least 90 people.
“I was part of a 10-person team that went over at the request of the Greek government,” he said.
“We were asked to go over to do some assessments of the building after the fires went through there.
“Our role is what is known as Rapid Damage Assessment.”
The team worked 12-hour days in summer weather conditions with temperatures regularly in the mid-30s in order to get the job done as quickly as possible.
“It was very hard work and very long days,” Mr Hooper said.
“We were looked after very well but we were over there to do a job and had a limited time to do it.
“Our initial time was going to be seven days but after we saw what we were facing we asked for an extension of that time – we ended up staying 12 days in order to get the job done.”
The team arrived back in Australia on August 16 after being deployed on August 3.
Mr Hooper said for the first couple of days back in Australia he did nothing but eat and sleep.
“It was a fantastic opportunity and I wouldn't have missed it for the world,” Mr Hooper said.
“I was lucky enough to be trained in USAR CAT 2 (Urban Search and Rescue Category 2) many years ago and this was my first deployment; to be able to help with the skills I have was fantastic.”
Mr Hooper has been with the SES for 40 years and was employed as a trained for 25 years after starting a as volunteer in Stawell.
He said he returned as a volunteer after the end of his employment because he liked to help people.
“I’m lucky enough to be a trainer as well,” he said.
“I like doing that because I like people learning things and then developing in their life – then they can learn to help people as well if they have the interest.”
Stawell SES unit coordinator Alan Blight said being deployed internationally was great recognition for Mr Hooper’s dedication.
“He was my mentor when I first joined the SES and that’s 31 years ago,” he said.
“He just loves the SES and for him to get the opportunity to go over to Greece was icing on the cake.
“The unit was extremely proud of John being sent over – it was great to see him get something out of his training .
“It’s a great honour to go overseas to represent your country and it reflects well on us here in Stawell.”
Mr Hooper said he would do it again if he was called upon.
“I would be over there in a heartbeat,” he said.