27 November 2013
Two RNZAF NH90 helicopters at Ex Southern Kaitpo 13
The largest ever international amphibious military exercise hosted by New Zealand has left military leaders confident of meeting future targets set by the Government.
Based mainly in South Canterbury, exercise Southern Katipo (SK13) has taken place throughout November in a fictional country known as Mainlandia where political tension between two ethnic groups, the Bekarans and Alpirians, had threatened stability in the small Pacific nation.
The exercise ended with the evacuation of more than 80 citizens from the port of Bluff aboard HMNZS CANTERBURY on Saturday where exercise volunteers sailed to Port Chalmers in Dunedin to escape the political upheaval in Mainlandia.
Having restored peace and stability in Mainlandia coalition forces have now withdrawn, according to their Commander, Colonel (COL) John Howard.
“We have secured the province of Bekara and handed over to the Mainlandian forces, both military and police, and we have restored a level of law and order that has allowed the community to feel safe again,” he said.
More than 2200 personnel from New Zealand and nine other countries took part in the exercise supported by international capability that included French frigate FNS PRAIRIAL and a number of military aircraft including two C-17 Globemasters from the United States.
Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Air Vice Marshal Kevin Short says he’s very pleased with how the exercise unfolded, and that the aims were achieved.
“This Exercise showed we have made great progress in our amphibious capability and in joint effects. I know everyone involved has gained new experiences and skills, learned much about working with our sister Services, and enjoyed operating in the coalition of 10 nations.”
Exercise Director Colonel (COL) Paul Van Den Broek said the exercise provided a unique opportunity for the NZ Defence Force to demonstrate its ability to work with coalition partners and other Government agencies. One area which exceeded all expectations was the volume of community support in South Canterbury and a nationwide and international following on social media platforms.
“I’ve heard stories of locals dropping off baking to the soldiers, but my favourite story is the one of the elderly woman walking home with her shopping. She tripped over, only to be picked up by six burly soldiers who carried her shopping and escorted her home safely,” said COL Van Den Broek.
The support from people of all ages had been overwhelming for many involved in Exercise Southern Katipo.
“Our personnel have interacted with people of all ages from childcare centres to schools and senior members of the community. We don’t often get that opportunity, and it was one that was very much appreciated by us. That’s something that is impossible to measure in terms of success.”
In thanking the many people who volunteered to assist the exercise, COL Van Den Broek also acknowledged the organisations and private land owners who opened their facilities and properties to exercise participants.
“Without their goodwill and support it would have been very difficult to have achieved our exercise aims and objectives,” he said.
The last remaining international personnel from Australia, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and the US Marine Corps will be farewelled at Burnham Military Camp today, and COL Van Den Broek bids them a fond farewell.
“I’d like to acknowledge the support of our international partners who travelled all the way to New Zealand to exercise alongside our joint forces – I wish them a safe trip home and look forward to working alongside them again in the future.”
For more information or photos, contact Defence Communications Group on 021 487 980.