Army has taken the first steps towards establishing a new health brigade – the 2nd Brigade – which will return to Army’s order of battle in 2023 after being disbanded in 1946.
Four health battalions will be raised in early 2022 in Darwin, Adelaide, Brisbane and Townsville before establishing the 2nd Brigade the following year.
The restructure has been informed by the Army Health Capability review, which began in 2018. As part of the review, the Directorate of Army Health worked closely with key health stakeholders across Army, including 17th Sustainment Brigade and 2nd Division.
The capability review was the most significant review of Army health capability since the 2010 Combat Health Restructure, according to Director of Army Health Colonel Toni Bushby.
“Implementing the outcomes of the review will initially see the establishment of four multi-function health battalions, which will ultimately provide a fully operational health brigade,” COL Bushby said.
“This will enhance Army health capabilities and increase our ability to attract and retain qualified health professionals across all service categories.
“The establishment of regionally based health and allied health units headquartered in Brisbane, Adelaide, Townsville and Darwin, and enhanced surgical capabilities in both Brisbane and Adelaide, reflect the geographical spread of the bulk of the current and future force.”
With a large part-time workforce, Army Health has embraced the Total Workforce System, and the establishment framework has been modelled with this in mind.
According to the 2nd Division’s Senior Health Officer Colonel Andrew Whitworth, the integration of the part-time health workforce from the 2nd Division and 17th Sustainment Brigade was a fundamental enabler.
“Forty seven per cent of Army’s health workforce are Reserve or part-time personnel, most of whom bring specialist skills with them from the civilian health system,” COL Whitworth said.
“The integration of the part-time health workforce into the multi-function health battalions will increase the opportunities for training, placement and advancement. They will also become part of integrated teams, bringing their specialty skills with them to provide support across the spectrum of Army health services.”
The move towards a dedicated health brigade will see the closure of current health units and sub-units in order to raise the four new health battalions.
The new structure would include adjustments to all the existing deployable unit structures within Army, following the closure of the 1st Psychology Unit on 19 November, according to COL Bushby.
“The incredibly valuable work of Army’s psychology specialist will continue, with existing detachments transferred into the health battalions,” COL Bushby continued.
“We will increase the number of permanent psychology officer positions in Army and strengthen Army’s investment in preventative mental health initiatives.
“We will also see the retirement of 1st Close Health Battalion, 2nd General Health Battalion, 3rd Health Support Battalion and medical companies from Army’s Reserve brigades and Regional Support Force medical detachments.
“In their place, in 2022 we will see the raising of 1st Health Battalion in Darwin, the 2nd Health Battalion in Brisbane, the 3rd Health Battalion in Adelaide and the 4th Health Battalion in Townsville.
“While this is an ending of sorts for the current units, the storied history of health services in the Australian Army will be carried forward with pride by each battalion.”
Commander 17th Sustainment Brigade, Brigadier Craig Dobson added that care had been taken to ensure minimal disruption to deployable health capabilities as the transition to the health battalions commences.
“The newly established health battalions will stay under the command of 17th Sustainment Brigade in 2022, ensuring we remain responsible and responsive for health support through this transition period,” BRIG Dobson said.
“In addition to the high level of health support we have come to expect from our Army health capabilities, the new structure will re-allocate dental and preventative medicine assets to Darwin, Townsville and Adelaide, to enhance support to Army units and Garrison Health.
“This evolution paves the way to establish 2nd Health Brigade as Army’s health centre of excellence in 2023. With enhanced command and staff planning functions, the brigade will generate combat health capability to support joint, coalition and interagency operations.”