Thursday, May 23, 2024

Army gears up for Tongan exercise

Soldiers from New Zealand and overseas will soon deploy to Tonga to assist local communities with various projects and help increase their resilience to natural disasters.

In preparation for Exercise Tropic Twilight, the personnel have been welcomed to Linton Military Camp with a pōwhiri.

The annual South Pacific exercise, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), will be hosted in Tonga this year.

New Zealand Army engineers will head to the island of Lifuka to help increase resilience to natural disasters. A unit of Defence Health personnel will also be deployed to the island to hold community dental clinics.

Sixty New Zealand soldiers will be joined by 10 army personnel from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Australia, United States, United Kingdom, Japan and New Caledonia.

During the pōwhiri, Officer Commanding 25 Engineer Support Squadron Major James Brosnan said those involved in the overseas deployment will embrace diversity and utilise their strengths to move forward as one unit and achieve their objectives.

“This is about supporting the Kingdom of Tonga, building disaster resilience, enhancing stability in the region and reiterating that we are all trusted partners within the Pacific,” he said.

“By ourselves, we wouldn’t be able to achieve all the goals, so the participation of the other countries cannot be understated.

“It also creates an opportunity to make new friends, increase our ability to operate together and be exposed to different perspectives and methods to achieve a mission.”

This is the second year in a row the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has chosen to hold Exercise Tropic Twilight in Tonga, in order to provide the island kingdom with aid as it continues to recover from the impact of the 2022 Hunga Tonga – Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption.

Over the course of seven weeks, the engineer troop will focus on renovations and upgrades to the Ha’ateiho Community Centre to ensure the community has a safe place to shelter during or after cyclones. The troops will also makes repairs to the Koulo Meteorological Station and upgrade facilities at two local schools.

“We are looking forward to the challenge of projecting and sustaining a force on a remote island group within Tonga and the Pacific,” Major Brosnan said.

“It will really test the NZDF’s ability to plan, communicate, coordinate, execute and respond to developing situations – all essential elements of being a highly trained and deployable force.

“Similar problems we could experience in New Zealand, which could be easily fixed with a phone call or ducking down to the local vendor, will take innovative and collaborative solutions in order to achieve our tasks.

“The tangible end state will be highly rewarding too. As a team being able to stand back and say you built that for the community or delivered dental care to a certain number of locals will be a gratifying experience.”

In preparation for the exercise, personnel will complete a number of activities including a trade skills competition, before leaving for Lifuka later this month.

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