A Testing Exercise of Two Halves

A Pinzgauer successfully crosses the Gap Crossing System
A Pinzgauer successfully crosses the Gap Crossing System

19 May 2014

The New Zealand Defence Force is using one of its largest exercises Alam Halfa as a testing ground for soldiers and new kit.

More than 600 soldiers and 60 officers are being tested on the military training ground in Waiouru for Exercise Alam Halfa. It has been compared to bringing a variety of rugby franchises together to make a Barbarians team by Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) Sholto Stephens, Commanding Officer of Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles and Commander for Exercise Alam Halfa.

There’s a lot of focus on individual soldier training on this exercise as there are 14 different trades in the field doing what they joined the Army to do.

“Each day is different and they are learning how to utilise their skills in different situations and game plays,” said LTCOL Stephens.

“The soldiers are enjoying being challenged as each day there are more realistic hurdles facing them. We are increasing the complexity and number of challenges all the time.”

The list of tasks is extensive with the troops and equipment being put through their paces in gruelling battle simulations that test agility and capability in a life-like scenario.

“They are able to see where they need to improve for next time, showing how invaluable exercises like this are.”

The exercise is being watched by international observers from the US Marines and US Army who debrief command each day and advise on what could be done better.

LTCOL Stephens says the advice is invaluable.
“We can all learn from each other and they are in a good position to be able to advise us on how to do things better. It’s really good to work with them.”

As the exercise progresses LTCOL Stephens says the soldiers must use intuition as well as scientific analysis to keep ahead of the tests they face each day.

As well as testing soldiers’ stamina and brains new equipment is also being put through its paces with Medium Heavy Operational Vehicles (MHOV) working alongside the well-utilised Light Armoured Vehicles (LAV) and the Army’s Gap Crossing System, being used for the first time by LAV.

The system, designed to allow access across narrow waterways and ravines, is deployed by cantilevering it off the back of an MHOV until it is positioned in exactly the right spot to enable trucks, LAV and personnel to cross.
The exercise will move to the Hawke’s Bay this week and will continue until the end of the month.


For more information please contact Emma Horsley Communications Advisor - Central Region for the New Zealand Defence Force on 021 409 033.

This page was last reviewed on 23 May 2014.