By HARRY CLARKE
THE Western Downs SES Unit has received the accolade of Operational Response of the Year for the forensic search volunteers conducted in response to the police shooting at Wieambilla last December.
The unit’s deputy controller, Miles police officer Scott Pogan (main picture), was individually recognised as Member of the Year for the SES’s south west region, which encompasses the Lockyer Valley, Darling Downs, Southern Downs, Western Downs and South West.
Amid community shock following the murders of police constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold, and civilian Alan Dare, local SES (State Emergency Service) volunteers assembled at the shooting location during the active police response and immediately began assisting.
With heavy media interest and local and regional traffic using surrounding roads, SES volunteers were this week recognised for “holding composure and maintaining effective vehicle control and thereby assisted police significantly” at the service’s south western region awards ceremony in Toowoomba.
“Local controller (Sharn Pogan) recognised that with a forward command post at a remote location, the presence of additional lighting, generators and other ammenities would be of benefit to the police present at that location,” the award statement said.
“This search was conducted in very difficult circumstances, where members were exposed to a highly emotionally charged situation and a current and active crime scene with associated requirements and considerations.
“Additionally, the forensic search was conducted on a property where there were active scrub and grass fires which were impacting upon the search areas and required additional vigilance by the SES volunteers.
“The search conditions were extremely hot with blustery winds impacting our volunteers with dust, heat and smoke.”
SES volunteers from Miles, Chinchilla, Dalby and Tara remained on-site from the late evening of the December 12 to the mid-morning of the December 13 when traffic control was no-longer required.
“SES volunteers maintained their professionalism with the growing number of insistent media and local traffic attempting to gain access to the area,” the statement said.
SES Western Downs Deputy Controller Scott Pogan (husband of Sharn Pogan), who works as a police senior constable in Miles, was on scene at Wieambilla on December 12 knowing two of his colleagues had been killed.
He said he was proud of the SES unit for its professional conduct both in the immediate response to the shooting and over the days that followed in support of police’s significant forensic investigation.
“It’s nice to be recognised for our contributions as a unit, culminating with special recognition for the Wieambilla forensic search,” Pogan said.
“SES is not unfamiliar with forensic searches and conducting them in various circumstances but this one was a little bit different.
“Certainly, on a personal level, it was very close to home. Wearing the dual hats (policer and SES) I was extremely proud to see the SES team all very cognisant of the importance of what we were doing.
“We had crews from Brisbane, Warwick, the Lockyer Valley and various other locations. They all travelled willingly and were all affected by the incident. They were willing to lend their assistance to the best of their ability.”
As well as Pogan, major individual awards were also presented to Claudia Stiller from the Miles SES for Young Member of the Year and Janine Hegarty from Warwick for Regional Trainer of the Year.
Stiller’s fellow Miles SES volunteer, Tom Morfee, was a nominee for Junior Member of the Year for “special contribution to SES through diligence, contagious enthusiasm and striving for personal excellence during training, community engagement and activations”.
Pogan said leading the region’s SES unit and helping young volunteers to develop special skills, leadership qualities and self confidence was a rewarding experience.
“Tom’s only 17 and he’s been with the SES since he was 16. He started off during high school. He came along and he was very keen to jump in and give us a hand,” he said.
“Claudia’s an absolute delight to work with. She moved very rapidly through SES training and became an acting group leader at the Miles SES. She was keen to take on different roles and learn and be a part of things.
“She’s learnt a lot of skills and she was able to develop herself personally. She’s very dedicated.
“”You couldn’t find better kids. I enjoy seeing that sort of growth in a young person. That’s something we are trying to focus on – getting kids in high school to come and join our SES. They learn skills and community involvement.
“It helps them in their life. When they leave high school they have some sort of certification. It’s something we’d really like to see more of and we’re working with schools to push, encourage and foster that. There are opportunities available through SES to really push growth into that younger generation.
“We come from country communities and unfortunately a lot of our kids leave and go to other places of opportunities.
“I try to focus on some of those kids who are likely to stay in our community and give them something to feel the privilege of being part of their community and their environment.”