New Zealand Army personnel return to core duty as soldiers after two years of helping fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
The army is conducting its first major exercise this week in Manawatū since the completion of Operation Protect, the armed forces’ response to Covid-19.
Exercise Torokiki is held at Linton Military Camp and Raumai Range west of Bulls in Rangitīkei. It is a milestone in the army’s five-year regeneration plan.
Soldiers work on core combat skills, junior leadership, and mental and physical challenges for personnel.
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The commander of the land component, Colonel Duncan Roy, said about 1,000 soldiers from across the country took part.
“We have come to spend some time together today in a challenging environment where we can connect, [and] go back to the core business of soldiers.
“[It’s] really focused on the individual and junior level, so we work in sections, groups of 10 and there’s just a lot of different activities to give our people those experience points of difference that come with being in the military.
As part of Operation Protect, many soldiers were away from their usual duties and instead involved in running managed isolation and quarantine facilities.
“We were busy in the hotels for the MIQ facilities and were happy to do so. That’s what the government wanted and the nation needed.
“It’s great to be able to put that behind us and refocus and look at the core business of being a soldier and get back into that.
“We are a fairly young organization with people coming through.
“A few of the people who joined in the last two years haven’t had this opportunity, so it’s exciting and a lot of fun to be able to do this.”
Before Covid-19, the military wouldn’t do exercises on this scale, but Roy said they wanted everyone to make a statement and have this as the basis for more complex training next year.
Next year, military personnel will undergo specialist training on issues such as logistics, signals or combat.
The exercise was divided into five days, with different activities, and personnel were put to work with “good basic skills”, regardless of which corps they were in.
They also talked about the culture and ethos of the military.
Roy said he had heard many positive things from the soldiers about working together and participating in unique experiences.
“Whether it’s shooting at the shooting range at Raumai, whether it’s good soldiering like we’re seeing here, or some of the more unorthodox things we do, like setting up a tent underwater, some challenging things that are designed to really adjust those things. mental skills and teamwork.”
The training sessions include shooting sessions, medical training and going through an obstacle course.
There was a training simulation where soldiers went through shipping containers and fired at targets using a new form of electronic blanks, which came from a Norwegian company and were seen as a cheaper option than normal blanks.
At Raumai, they were engaged in live shooting and working with NH90 helicopters.
Sergeant Jack Colton was the instructor of the medical session, which he said was designed to refresh first aid skills and work as a team.
During the session, soldiers acted like wounded, complete with makeup to resemble bloody wounds and wailing loudly, and had to be treated.
The soldiers also learned how to apply a tourniquet to stop someone from bleeding.
During target practice at Linton’s firing range, soldiers trained to use Glock pistols and fire at a target from different distances and positions so that they would become reacquainted with the weapons.
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