22 December 2015
As Kiwis in New Zealand put the final touches on their Christmas arrangements, New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel deployed overseas are preparing to mark the occasion as best they can without their families and friends at home.
However, two of the NZDF’s senior commanders have been able to deliver the compliments of the season in person to several of the deployments in the past few days.
The Chief of Army, Major General (MAJGEN) Peter Kelly, visited Kiwi soldiers serving in Iraq as part of the Building Partner Capacity mission, and the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, MAJGEN Tim Gall, visited the New Zealanders deployed to the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai Peninsula, and to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. Both officers have now returned to New Zealand.
MAJGEN Kelly says that the Kiwis at the Taji Military Complex won’t be having much time off but are determined to make the most of a Christmas Day spent in a challenging environment.
“They are in really good spirits and enjoying the work they are doing. They will be able to skype or call home on Christmas morning, they’ll have a pretty good meal and there will also be some sporting activities with our Australian colleagues over there … I expect the usual Anzac rivalry will be to the fore,” he said.
MAJGEN Gall said that Kiwis in the Sinai and South Sudan are firmly focused on the important responsibilities they have.
“For the New Zealand officers in South Sudan, the proximity of hundreds of thousands of malnourished Internally Displaced Persons, also trying to commemorate Christmas in this largely Christian society, in crowded and very basic tented UN camps, within a couple of hundred metres of their respective locations, highlights that being away from home over Christmas is a small price to pay for the important work they are doing with the UN.
“It’s always tough being away at this time of the year, and their thoughts are naturally centred on loved ones at home, but that’s the nature of the job we do. On the day they will be marking the occasion in as many of the usual ways as possible and hopefully having a little bit of a break,” he said.
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