Packing up and moving house is a big task by anyone’s standards but moving the tonnes of equipment and supplies of the NZ Defence Force’s mission in Afghanistan back to New Zealand is an entirely different proposition.
The mission closure team process equipment and supplies in Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.
Over the last eight months the NZ Defence Force mission closure team in Afghanistan has successfully completed the Defence Force’s largest logistics operation in recent decades.
A total of 100 truck loads and 35 C-130 Hercules loads of equipment and supplies have been transported out of Bamyan Province for return to New Zealand.
Royal New Zealand Air Force 40 Squadron provided crucial support and conducted a total of 16 flights. The Defence Force was also strongly supported by the US Air Force who conducted a similar number of C-130 flights, and the Royal Australian Air Force who provided C-130 and critical heavy lift helicopter support.
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Weston, Commanding Officer of the mission closure team, says it has been a significant task and a very busy deployment for the team of 43 personnel.
"When we arrived in Bamyan we had to account for ten years' worth of equipment and supplies. We identified what needed to be brought back to New Zealand, and items that could be gifted to the local community such as some vehicles, furniture, medical consumables and cleaning stores.
"We dealt with a number of significant challenges during our deployment. The isolated location meant there were limited transportation means to move equipment out. The NZ Provincial Reconstruction Team (NZPRT) had to maintain operations until the end and needed access to the equipment we were trying to account for, pack and move out. Underlying all of this was a potential threat from insurgents, and the unpredictable winter weather required a significant degree of flexibility.
"Our final day and withdrawal from the NZPRT went very smoothly – this was testament to the professionalism and dedication of the team, and the overall effort and enthusiasm they displayed throughout the deployment."
The mission closure team deployed alongside the final rotation of personnel to serve with the NZPRT in September last year.
The Defence Force worked with NATO to fit into coalition partners’ extraction timelines. The Defence Force also liaised with NZ Customs, Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to ensure personnel and equipment met bio-security standards.
The team has been based at Bagram Air Base since the closure of the NZPRT in April. Today, the last group of 12 personnel from the mission closure team returned to their home locations in New Zealand.
The equipment and supplies are expected to return to New Zealand later in May on three chartered freight flights. Eight movement personnel remain in Bagram to assist with the freight loading. A team in Auckland and Trentham will receive the materiel and transition it through Customs and MPI before reconstitution and re-issue.
For more information, contact Defence Communications Group on 021 487 980.