NZ Navy officers observe Latin-American exercise

The New Zealand Defence Force is taking part in a multi-national maritime exercise in Chile focused on conducting combined naval operations and countering threats such as piracy and transnational organised crime.

FILE PHOTO (Sept 2018): Colombian Marines fast-rope onto the flight deck of Whidbey Island-class Dock Landing Ship USS Gunston Hall during UNITAS 2018. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Colbey Livingston.

Two Royal New Zealand Navy officers – Commander Andrew Sorensen and Lieutenant Commander Matt Kaio – are part of the battle staff on warships from the United States and Chile during UNITAS Pacific 2019, which is being conducted from 23 June to 3 July.

Hosted by Chile, this year’s iteration of UNITAS Pacific involves 11 ships, eight aircraft and about 1800 personnel from five countries – Chile, the United States, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador.

New Zealand is among at least seven other countries that sent observers.

“Opportunities to work with Latin American navies is fairly rare, so this exercise provides a chance to see how they operate together and learn from each other’s experiences,” said Commander Sorensen, who is the deputy to the exercise’s Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Commander.

“It will also be interesting to observe their approach to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.”

During the exercise’s sea phase, Commander Sorensen will be on the United States Navy’s guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy.

Lieutenant Commander Kaio, who is embedded on the Chilean Navy frigate CNS FF Condell, said the exercise provided an opportunity for RNZN personnel to gain experience working in a multi-national command.

“Operating together as a team during exercises such as UNITAS enables us to enhance our abilities to work together in countering any future maritime threats,” Lieutenant Commander Kaio said.

Started in 1960, UNITAS Pacific is conducted annually in Latin America and the Caribbean to strengthen maritime partnerships and improve the readiness of participating forces for a wide range of potential multi-national and combined operations at sea.





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Brian Hartigan

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