28 March 2018
Defence Minister Ron Mark commended the work of New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel in the Middle East as he presented medals following completion of the year-long maritime surveillance mission.
Mr Mark presented the medals yesterday at Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Auckland in Whenuapai to 180 personnel who served in the Middle East in the past year.
The NZDF completed the mission last month, flying more than 1000 hours and helping an international naval coalition seize heroin with an estimated value of $700 million.
The NZDF sent a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft and a 55-member detachment to the Middle East in February 2017 to work as part of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) for 12 months. The Orion flew a total of 1010 hours on 135 missions.
Surveillance information from the Orion led to four CMF drug busts in the Indian Ocean, with about $700 million worth of heroin seized.
The CMF is a 32-nation naval partnership seeking to promote security across 8.2 million square kilometres of international water, which encompasses some of the world’s most important shipping lanes. It includes three combined task forces, which are focused on defeating global terrorism, preventing piracy and narcotics smuggling, and promoting a safe maritime environment.
After presenting the medals, Mr Mark commended the personnel on the 3.2 million square kilometres covered in border patrols flown and the $700 million worth of drugs that would not end up financing terrorist operations.
“There is a bigger, ultimately greater picture and that is about our credibility as a nation in the eyes of our allies and our partners, in terms of your professionalism and performance,” he said.
“Throughout your operation over the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean you provided a level of service that has earned you and New Zealand the reputation as exemplars in key roles at the highest levels – something that you should be enormously proud of and the Government thanks you for.”
Chief of Air Force Air Vice Marshal Tony Davies thanked those who were posted to the Middle East, as well as the support crews in New Zealand.
“Thank you for coming together as a team, not only those who were deployed, but from every corner of this Base – all of you who contributed. It couldn’t have been done without all of you,” Air Vice Marshal Davies said.
FAST FACTS: NZDF’s maritime surveillance mission in the Middle East
• Duration: 12 months
• Total flying hours: 1010
• Total missions completed: 135
• Surveillance information from an RNZAF Orion led to four drug busts, which seized about $700 million worth of heroin in the Indian Ocean.