Specialist healthcare contingent deploys to Samoa on Exercise Tropic Twilight

28 July 2012

Regular and Reserve Force NZ Defence Force personnel, along with civilian medical specialists, will deliver a range of specialist healthcare services to the people of Samoa as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight 2012.

Exercise Tropic Twilight
A RNZAF C-130 Hercules is loaded with medical equipment and supplies by Air Movements and Loadmaster personnel at Ohakea Air Force Base on Friday. A second C-130 will depart on Monday.

Exercise Tropic Twilight, which takes place from 28 July to 20 August, will involve a 100-strong Defence Force contingent including doctors, anaesthetists, nurses and a range of other medical staff, as well as dentists, environmental health and logistics personnel.

The Exercise is conducted in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade which funds the provision of the medical supplies through the NZ Aid Programme.

A Forward Surgical Team (FST) will set up and run independently out of tented accommodation, replicating how it would operate in a disaster relief situation. The FST is planning to conduct around 40 minor surgeries. A team of healthcare specialists will conduct medical outreach programmes in remote locations in Samoa, and a small engineer element will support the FST and assist with minor repairs to Samoan health facilities.

New Zealand’s participation in Exercise Tropic Twilight demonstrates our commitment to the Pacific, says Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Twiss, 2 Health Support Battalion.

“Helping our Pacific partners to prepare and respond to natural disasters is crucial. It is also important to work alongside a range of partners building our interoperability.

“It is a big challenge for the contingent to project into another country, to set up a FST which has a unique mix of military and civilian personnel, and deliver a range of healthcare services in a short timeframe, but that is exactly the scenario in a real disaster situation. The whole contingent is very much looking forward to the challenge.”

In recent years Defence Force contingents have embarked on RNZN ships to deliver humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) in the Pacific. Tropic Twilight 2012 sees the contingent deploying using only Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) aircraft, testing its ability to deploy by air.

“This year for Exercise Tropic Twilight we are deploying solely by RNZAF. Around ten tonnes of medical equipment and fourteen tonnes of supply equipment need to be carefully loaded onto a C-130, with controlled medical supplies correctly positioned. The team will be transported separately by Boeing 757,” adds LTCOL Twiss.

HADR exercises are essential for the Defence Force, enhancing co-operation and building relationships with our partners. A small team from the Australian Defence Force, French Armed Forces New Caledonia (FANC), and the United States will work alongside the Kiwis as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight.

“Participation in HADR exercises are essential for New Zealand to remain capable and poised to support whole-of-government Pacific disaster response operations, such as the 2009 Samoa Tsunami. They also help prepare us for any domestic situation, such as the Christchurch earthquake,” says LTCOL Twiss.

“New Zealand has close ties with Samoa and it is fitting that we are conducting Tropic Twilight in Samoa this year, coinciding with the 50 years of independence from New Zealand and the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship celebrations.”

The Defence Force recently contributed a team of eight health specialists from Navy, Army and Air Force who embarked on USNS MERCY for the Vietnam phase of Exercise Pacific Partnership 2012.

New Zealand will be fully participating in Exercise Pacific Partnership 2013, and will co-host an international planning conference for Pacific Partnership in Wellington in August. 


For further information contact Senior Media Advisor, Kirsty Taylor-Doig on 021 806 926

This page was last reviewed on 17 March 2013.