9 November 2012
Lance Corporal Ricky Mitchell, 23, from Invercargill, on deployment in Timor-Leste
Lance Corporal Ricky Mitchell, 23, from Invercargill, returns to New Zealand today after completing a six month deployment to Timor-Leste, supporting the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF).
The contingent, from 2nd/1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (2/1 RNZIR) and supporting units, is the last Defence Force rotation to serve with the ISF.
The security environment in Timor-Leste has remained calm and stable since the successful elections earlier this year, and the ISF has completed its security mandate so the Kiwis and Aussies are coming home.
The lower operational tempo of the deployment allowed the contingent to focus on training, on top of providing security to ISF bases and maintaining a Protected Mobility Vehicle Troop on standby to deploy a Quick Reaction Force. A wide range of training was conducted from small arms shooting course, urban operations course, to combat lifesavers training.
Most of the contingent also had an opportunity to visit Cova Lima, where Defence Force personnel deployed back in 1999-2002, and where Private Leonard Manning was killed, New Zealand’s first combat casualty since Vietnam.
LCPL Mitchell, has been in the Army for six years, and says he really enjoyed getting the chance to engage with the locals in Timor-Leste. He also enjoyed taking part in the ISF soccer and basketball tournaments which were great fun.
He previously deployed to Timor-Leste in 2008 and says he’s noticed a difference coming back this year. "Back in 2008, there was a lot more scooters than cars on the roads, now it’s the other way round. It’s a lot busier, and not as socially underdeveloped. There’s even a mall here in Dili, now. The social atmosphere has changed a lot, it’s not as tense. It’s good to see all the changes, and to be part of our last contingent here with the ISF."
On getting back home to New Zealand, LCPL Mitchell is looking forward to catching up with his partner and family. He’s missed snowboarding and says he doesn’t like the heat in Timor-Leste. "I don’t like sweating, being from down south I’m not used to it."
LCPL Mitchell attended Southland Boys High School.
A small Theatre Extraction Team has replaced the returning contingent this week, and they will work with the Australians to close down the bases and return military equipment over the next couple of months.
The Defence Force has supported various operations in Timor-Leste since 1999, and has assisted the ISF to maintain a stable and secure environment since 2006.
The Defence Force will continue to maintain a footprint in Timor-Leste with the deployment of five advisors to the Timor-Leste Defence Force.
For further information contact Kirsty Taylor-Doig, Senior Media Advisor, Defence Communications Group on 021 806 926.