About 100 New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) soldiers who have been training Iraqi Security Forces since April received a warm welcome when they returned home yesterday evening.
Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee and Vice Chief of Defence Force Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short welcomed home the third rotation of New Zealand troops at Christchurch.
“Welcome home and a big thank you to all of you,” Air Vice-Marshal Short told returning troops.
“You have done an outstanding job in training and building the confidence of Iraqi soldiers.
“You have also continued the good work of previous contingents.”
The third rotation of Task Group Taji, the combined New Zealand-Australia training force based in Iraq’s Camp Taji, trained about 9000 soldiers from five Iraqi Army brigades during their six-month tour.
This represents about 60 per cent of the nearly 16,000 Iraqi Security Forces trained by the task group since their mission began in May 2015.
The NZDF Senior National Officer on the rotation said some of the soldiers they trained had never fired more than a few rounds with their rifle before.
“By the time they complete the training, we aim to not only increase their proficiency in the use of their personal weapons, but to have them operating better together as a unit,” he said.
“Really it is this cohesion that makes them more effective operationally.
“One Iraqi soldier who was wounded in battle credited his training in combat first aid, which included learning how to put on a tourniquet, for helping save his life.
“Our trainers are proud to see the improvement demonstrated by the jundi [Iraqi soldiers].
“It is impressive and humbling to see their enthusiasm before they leave for the front line.”
Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said New Zealand’s training mission was helping the Iraqi military increase the skills and numbers of its fighters.
“Having capable fighters is critical in sustaining the Iraqi military’s counter-offensive campaign against Daesh,” Major General Gall said.
“Many of the forces we helped train are now on the front line.
“It is a tough fight but with the help of the Coalition, the Iraqi military is winning.”
The New Zealand government announced in June that it had extended the NZDF contribution to the training mission until November 2018.
Around six to eight personnel of the NZDF training and force protection team are now travelling for short periods to another secure training location.
Starting in November, New Zealand soldiers are now also able to train stabilisation forces such as the Iraqi Border Guards in addition to the Iraqi Army.
The programme of instruction is based on individual soldier skills, including weapons handling and marksmanship at close quarters and longer ranges.
The training includes combat first aid and obstacle-breaching techniques as well as counter-improvised explosive device techniques and explosive hazard awareness training.
All Iraqi Security Forces are also taught the fundamentals of international human rights law and the Law of Armed Conflict. .