New Zealand Army personnel are getting back to the core business of soldiering after two years helping combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
The army is running its first major exercise since the completion of Operation Protect, the Defense Force’s response to Covid-19, this week in Manawatū.
Exercise Torokiki is being 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 are working on core combat skills, junior leadership and mental and physical challenges for personnel.
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Land Component Commander Colonel Duncan Roy said they had about 1000 soldiers from across the country taking part.
“We’ve come up to spend some time together today in a challenging environment where we can connect, [and] get back to the core business of soldiering.
“[It’s] really aimed at the individual and junior level, so we’re operating in sections, groups of 10 and there’s just a lot of different activities to give our people those experiential points of difference that come with being in the army.”
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 happy to do it. That’s what the Government wanted and the nation needed.
“It’s great to be able to put that behind us and reorientate and look at the core business of soldiering and get back into that.
“We’re quite a young organization with people coming through.
“A few of the people who joined the last two years haven’t had this opportunity, so it’s exciting and really neat to be able to do it.”
Before Covid-19 the army wouldn’t do exercises on this scale, but Roy said they wanted to make a statement with everyone together and have this as a foundation before more complex training next year.
Next year soldiers will do specialist training on things like logistics, signals or combat.
The exercise was broken into five days, with different activities, and personnel were put to work with “good basic skills” regardless of what corp they were in.
They also talked about the army’s culture and ethos.
Roy said he had heard a lot of positives from the soldiers about working together and taking part in unique experiences.
“Whether it’s shooing on the range out at Raumai, whether it’s doing good soldiering like we’re seeing here, or some of the more unorthodox things we’re doing like putting up a tent underwater, a few challenging things designed to really tweak those mental skills and the team work.”
The training sessions included live firing sessions, medical training and going through an obstacle course.
There was a training simulation where soldiers went through shipping containers and shot targets using a new form of electronic blanks, which come from a Norwegian company and were seen as a cheaper option than normal blanks.
At Raumai they were doing live firing and working with NH90 helicopters.
Sergeant Jack Colton was the instructor for the medical session, which he said was designed to refresh combat first aid skills and working as a team.
During the session soldiers were acting as injured people, complete with makeup to resemble bloody wounds and loud wailing, and had to be treated.
The soldiers were also taught how to apply a tourniquet to stop someone bleeding.
The live firing exercise at Linton’s firing range had soldiers training to use Glock pistols and firing at a target from different ranges and positions, so they would refamiliarise themselves with the weapons.
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