Soldiers of the New Zealand Army have returned to field training in the Pacific after two years spent protecting New Zealand’s borders from COVID-19, participating in the French Armed Forces New Caledonia (FANC) multinational Exercise Tagata’toa for the first time.
CAPTION: NZ Army soldiers receive instructions during Exercise Tagata’toa in New Caledonia. Photo courtesy French Armed Forces New Caledonia.
Working alongside an Australian Army detachment, the 34 Kiwi personnel from Linton-based 1 Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (1RNZIR) trained and rehearsed over two weeks for a wide variety of contingency operations, ranging from disaster relief to combat.
Commanding Officer 1RNZIR Lieutenant Colonel Logan Vaughan said it was a worthwhile exercise that covered critical skills as well as interoperability with the Pacific Islands Regiment New Caledonia and the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.
“Our soldiers have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to exercise overseas with our French and Australian partners after completing two years of MIQ duties,” Lieutenant Colonel Vaughan said.
“Familiarising ourselves with other nations’ tactics and equipment and then successfully conducting a high-tempo close-country exercise as part of a French unit was an excellent learning experience and very rewarding.”
As the exercise also fell over Anzac Day, the Kiwis were able to commemorate the occasion in Noumea and Bourail with the FANC, Australian soldiers and the New Zealand Consulate-General in two special services.
New Zealand Defence Force has a positive relationship with the FANC, regularly participating in the biennial Exercise Croix Du Sud, the largest humanitarian aid and disaster relief exercise in the South Pacific, also with Australian Defence Force personnel.
Earlier this year personnel from all three countries contributed to Operation Pacific Relief, which delivered immediate relief to the people of Tonga following the devastating Hunga Ha’apai eruption and tsunami.
New Zealand Army Land Component Commander Brigadier Hugh McAslan said the exercise was a welcome opportunity to re-establish French, Australian and New Zealand engagement and relationships.