3 July 2013
Members of D Company, 2/1 RNZIR clear a town as they are put through their paces in the US Marine Corps’ infantry immersion trainer.
The NZ Army and Royal NZ Navy have just completed a six week long amphibious warfare exercise in Southern California at the US Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton. The exercise saw our sailors and soldiers learn amphibious war fighting skills from their US Marine counterparts from the 1st Marine Division. Also taking part in the exercise were Japanese and Canadian forces.
The exercise was designed to prepare troops for amphibious operations, which sees the force launch their military operation from ships onto the land in either a conflict or humanitarian aid situation in the Pacific. The NZ Defence Force has been preparing its own forces for amphibious operations for some time and this was a perfect opportunity to further develop the skills and knowledge to allow the NZ Defence Force to execute successful amphibious operations in the South Pacific.
The Commander of New Zealand’s Headquarters Joint Forces, Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short visited the troops and got a first hand look at the landings and work the Kiwi troops were doing.
“New Zealand is looking at developing a Joint Amphibious Task Force in the next couple of years. It is about putting a large force on the ground in a very short period of time to do an operation. Whether for humanitarian aid or security, we should be able to help anywhere in the South Pacific and beyond. The experience and training our troops have received will allow them to help us develop our own capability.”
The Commanding General of 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Brigadier General John Broadmeadow, who is hosting the exercise, spoke about the focus on amphibious operations also.
“Exercise Dawn Blitz is a great example of the ability to use the sea as manoeuvre space, then come across the beach and influence events ashore. The Pacific is an important place to the world, both politically and economically. I don’t know what the next crisis in this world is going to be, but I do know what we are doing on Dawn Blitz is helping us prepare. So when we respond, we do so quickly, effectively and together.”
The Royal NZ Navy personnel, consisting of the Operational Diving Team and Mine Counter Measures Team spent their time practicing with the US Navy to prepare the beaches for the landing of the amphibious craft. This meant clearing any mines which would stop a large scale landing.
The infantry element, based on D Company, 2nd/1st Battalion, concurrently practiced with the US Marine Corps and faced an intensive build up to the final exercise. The Officer Commanding of the Company group attending the exercise, Major John Lawrey spoke about their experiences.
“The soldiers loved the opportunity to experience the US Marine Corps’ equipment and training. They have experienced the Marine Corps' infantry immersion trainer which really made it feel like we were on high intensity operations. The company was put under a lot of pressure and learned a lot from the Marines. They then had the chance to conduct integration training with M1A1 main battle tanks and the Amtracs (amphibious armoured vehicles) which get us ashore to take part in the fight. We’ve also had a fly in their MV-22 Osprey and CH-46 aircraft as part of a company air assault. It has been a fantastic experience.”
After three weeks of preparatory training, the NZ troops conducted a final testing exercise which saw them conduct an amphibious assault as part of a Brigade group. Their opponents, a US Marine Corps Reserve Battalion, had already deployed and were waiting for the landing. The Kiwis were tasked with securing a vital road junction and flew in to secure it in CH-46 helicopters and MV-22 Ospreys as the air assault for the Brigade. As they landed they came under "heavy fire" and had to "fight" for several hours to get themselves to their objective. All this was done in the searing Southern California sun.
Training at higher intensity is necessary for warfighting but also allows us to be very effective in Human Assistance Disaster Relief (HADR) and peacekeeping operations.
Major Lawrey described the intensity of the training as different to what we currently experience on operations.
“This exercise goes back to a more conventional warfare scenario, rather than focusing on counter insurgency operations like in Afghanistan.”
The exercise has now concluded and New Zealand’s sailors and soldiers are now returning with a better understanding of the tasks and challenges which may lay ahead of them when conducting amphibious operations.
For more information, contact Major Aidan Shattock, Defence Communications Group on 021 478 574.
Video of the exercise can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7ITEBZTGAU
The Government announced in the 2010 Defence White Paper the NZDF was to develop a Joint Amphibious Task Force. This exercise is a part of working towards this goal.
Amphibious operations see the force ashore being supported by the ships at sea.
Amphibious operations allow the NZ Defence Force to project their forces across the sea to assist another nation stabilising a conflict situation, or to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief assistance.
New Zealand’s focus is on the South and South East Pacific regions and the maintenance of security in these areas.
Exercise Dawn Blitz is a multi-lateral exercise designed to develop the force’s understanding of amphibious operations. The exercise ran from 3 – 29 June 2013.
142 NZ Defence Force sailors and soldiers deployed on Exercise Dawn Blitz. Japan provided troops and ships, while the Canadians provided an Infantry Rifle Company and Navy personnel. The NZDF provided part of the Operational Dive Team and the Mine Counter Measures Team. Over 5000 troops were exercised throughout Exercise Dawn Blitz.
The MV-22 Osprey is a twin propeller aircraft which is capable of being utilised as a helicopter, but can transition into a plane by manoeuvring its propellers.
The CH-46 helicopter is a smaller version of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
The US Marine Corps base in Camp Pendleton, Southern California, is home to 60,000 US Marines.