Photo 20110518ad8164101_163: New Zealand members of the International Stabilisation Force stand proud after they are awarded the Timor-Leste Solidarity Medal at the Presidential Palace in Dili. Photo by Corporal Melina Mancuso, Australian Defence Force.
26 May 2011
Sixty seven NZ Defence Force personnel arrived back in Christchurch after completing a six month deployment supporting the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF) in Timor-Leste.
The contingent, made up mostly of personnel from 2nd/1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (2/1 RNZIR) and supporting units, have returned to a city significantly changed following February’s earthquake.
Major Ian Lattimore, Officer Commanding the contingent, said Defence Force personnel put duty first as they soldiered on to help the people of Timor-Leste despite their own concerns about home and loved ones.
“As the news flooded in of the extent of the human and property losses, the contingent wished they could be home near loved ones and to help the massive Defence Force efforts in support of their people. The majority of the contingent deployed from Burnham and have family in Canterbury, and this only added to the feelings of distance and a desperate wish to help.
"In true ANZAC fashion of duty first, and after ensuring their nearest and dearest were safe, our personnel realised they still had a job to do in Timor-Leste. We pulled together to help each other and the people of Canterbury as best we could, holding support activities such as prayer services and fundraising. Along with the eager help of our Aussie comrades, we raised over $US7000.00 for the relief fund.”
During their six month tour, the Kiwi contingent conducted patrols throughout Timor-Leste to engage with the local population and report their security, economic and health concerns.
“The contingent worked very well with the locals, the Kiwi uniforms were universally welcomed. Many of the people here remember with deep gratitude the help and sacrifice of NZ Defence Force personnel who protected and assisted them through more troubled times.
“To be greeted by locals in remote mountain villages with a ‘Kia Ora’ greeting, and a friendly wave is a moving tribute indeed,” said Major Lattimore.
The improved security situation in Timor-Leste has allowed the International Stabilisation Force to evolve from a security and stabilisation role to supporting the capacity building of the Falintil-Forças de Defesa de Timor-Leste (F-FDTL, the Timor-Leste Defence Force).
“Timor-Leste has moved on considerably from its history of violence and it now remains relatively quiet as it works to build a stable independent nation with the assistance of neighbours like Australia and New Zealand.
“The fact that the country remains calm after many years of strife is testimony itself to the professional job many ANZACs have and continue to do here. New Zealanders have a right to be proud of their service to help the people of Timor-Leste” added Major Lattimore.
NZ Defence Force has supported various operations in Timor-Leste since 1999.
The United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNIMIT) was established in 2006 and is tasked with supporting the Timor-Leste government and security institutions including the F-FDTL and Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL, the National Police of Timor-Leste).
As part of a planned drawdown, enabled by the improving security situation in Timor-Leste, the NZ Defence Force’s contribution to the International Stabilisation Force (ISF) was reduced from 140 to 75 personnel in May 2010. The Australian Defence Force also reduced its personnel numbers during 2010 to around 400.
Recently, in March 2011, the UN welcomed the transfer of responsibilities for all police operations back to the Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste.
The NZ Defence Force contribution to Timor-Leste also includes:
One Military Observer with the United Nations Mission in Timor-Leste.
Five advisors with the Falintil-Forças de Defesa de Timor-Leste (F-FDTL, the Timor-Leste Defence Force).
Four personnel in the National Support Element based in Darwin.
For further information contact Kirsty Taylor-Doig, Defence Communications Group, 021 806 926.
Follow us on Facebook at NZ Defence Force, and on Twitter at NZDefenceForce.