Vietnam Veterans Awarded Gallantry Citation by Australia

Source: New Zealand Defence Force

5 April 2019

Fifteen veterans who supported Australian troops in the Vietnam War have been the first soldiers from a New Zealand military unit to be awarded an Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry.

Families also received the citation on behalf of their loved ones who had died.

The veterans from 161 Battery, 16th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery, were presented with their citations at Linton Military Camp by Major General Gregory Bilton, Forces Commander of the Australian Army, on behalf of Lieutenant General Rick Burr, Chief of the Australian Army.

The 161 Battery was part of the 1st Australian Task Force on 23 May, 1966, and provided continuous fire support to successive Australian and New Zealand battalions from that date until withdrawn in May 1971.

The gunners received high praise for the accuracy and volume of fire support they provided at critical stages of attacks on the Australian battalion positions and Major General Bilton said he felt privileged to be able to present the insignias for the award to the veterans.

“This is well deserved and long overdue,” he said.

The veterans were accompanied by dozens of family members to witness the award. Defence and Veterans Minister Ron Mark, who reviewed the parade, said the strong relationship between Australia and New Zealand militaries was no more evident than during the Vietnam War and the relationship continued through current deployments.

“Our military relationship now is stronger because of those who came before,” Mr Mark said.

While this is the first Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry offered to a New Zealand military unit, in 2010 approval was given for three New Zealand Army personnel who were attached to D Company, 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment at the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam in 1966, to accept and wear the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry awarded to D Company.

Background Information

Members of 161 Battery, Royal New Zealand Artillery, initially deployed to Vietnam near Bien Hoa in July 1965. They moved to Nui Dat in the neighbouring Phuoc Tuy province as part of the newly formed 1st Australian Task Force on 23 May, 1966, and provided continuous fire support to successive Australian and New Zealand battalions from that date until withdrawn in May 1971.

One of the first significant operations for the 1st Australian Task Force was to deploy 120 kilometres from their Nui Dat base to an area in Bien Hoa Province designated “Area of Operation Surfers”. This was an area important to the North Vietnamese Army offensive operations being conducted against Saigon in 1968. The Task Force established Fire Support Bases named Coral and Balmoral.

The battles that followed were among the largest and most protracted fought by the Australian Task Force in the Vietnam War. The gunners of 161 Battery received high praise for the accuracy and volume of fire support they provided at critical stages of attacks on the Australian battalion positions.

MIL OSI

NZDF to Help Waiho Bridge

Source: New Zealand Defence Force

2 April 2019

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) will help rebuild South Westland’s Waiho Bridge, which was washed away by floodwater caused by heavy rain last week.

Lieutenant Colonel Terry McDonald, the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Engineer Regiment, said 18 personnel from the 2nd Engineer Regiment would be working with the New Zealand Transport Agency and engineering and construction company Downer New Zealand to replace the bridge.

The New Zealand Army engineers would be deployed for the duration of the project, Lieutenant Colonel McDonald said.

“It is great to contribute our professional expertise to support government agencies responding to communities that need our assistance.”

The Transport Agency’s contracted Bailey bridge installation expert Downer requested the NZDF’s support for the reconstruction of the seven-span Bailey bridge that crosses Waiho River.

A Bailey bridge is a type of portable, pre-fabricated truss bridge developed by the British for military use during the Second World War.
  
Once completed, the new 170-metre Waiho Bridge would be one of the longest Bailey bridges Army engineers had been involved in building since the Second World War, Lieutenant Colonel McDonald said.

Transport Agency System Manager Pete Connors said getting the NZDF’s help to assemble the spans on the bridge would ensure it was ready to be launched from the south side of the Waiho River as soon as possible.

“We know how important a link it is in the South Island and for the businesses in South Westland and the Army engineers will play a vital part in the restoration of a key piece of infrastructure.”

Westland authorities said the Waiho Bridge provided vital access to the region and its loss had adversely affected tourism on the West Coast and in South Westland.

MIL OSI

NZDF to Help Rebuild Waiho Bridge

Source: New Zealand Defence Force

2 April 2019

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) will help rebuild South Westland’s Waiho Bridge, which was washed away by floodwater caused by heavy rain last week.

Lieutenant Colonel Terry McDonald, the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Engineer Regiment, said 18 personnel from the 2nd Engineer Regiment would be working with the New Zealand Transport Agency and engineering and construction company Downer New Zealand to replace the bridge.

The New Zealand Army engineers would be deployed for the duration of the project, Lieutenant Colonel McDonald said.

“It is great to contribute our professional expertise to support government agencies responding to communities that need our assistance.”

The Transport Agency’s contracted Bailey bridge installation expert Downer requested the NZDF’s support for the reconstruction of the seven-span Bailey bridge that crosses Waiho River.

A Bailey bridge is a type of portable, pre-fabricated truss bridge developed by the British for military use during the Second World War.
  
Once completed, the new 170-metre Waiho Bridge would be one of the longest Bailey bridges Army engineers had been involved in building since the Second World War, Lieutenant Colonel McDonald said.

Transport Agency System Manager Pete Connors said getting the NZDF’s help to assemble the spans on the bridge would ensure it was ready to be launched from the south side of the Waiho River as soon as possible.

“We know how important a link it is in the South Island and for the businesses in South Westland and the Army engineers will play a vital part in the restoration of a key piece of infrastructure.”

Westland authorities said the Waiho Bridge provided vital access to the region and its loss had adversely affected tourism on the West Coast and in South Westland.

MIL OSI

Whangamata Sisters Serve at Sea Together

Source: New Zealand Defence Force

2 April 2019

Two sisters from the New Zealand Army and the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) shared a trip to sea last month on HMNZS Wellington for the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) resupply mission to the Kermadec Islands.

Lance Corporal Tamika Taikato, 23, is a Movement Operator with the Army’s Logistics Regiment based at Linton and has been to sea several times with the RNZN. Her younger sister, Able Communications Warfare Specialist Jade Taikato, 21, went to sea for the first time since joining the RNZN in 2017.

The sisters, the two oldest of eight children, who both went to Whangamata Area School, deployed together on the RNZN’s twice-yearly trip to Raoul Island, the largest of the Kermadec Islands, to support the Department of Conservation base there and research work by scientists.

HMNZS Wellington transported 20 government staff and 13 tonnes of supplies and equipment.

“I was excited to be on board with Jade,” Lance Corporal Taikato said. “It was cool to have a familiar face on board and have someone to ask about the Navy and get her insight.

“We didn’t see a lot of each other once we got to the island, because one of us works on the ship and one on land,” she said. “But it was great to catch up on the way to Raoul and back to Auckland.”

It was stories of life in the RNZN from the sisters’ cousin, Petty Officer Combat System Specialist Andre Taikato, who served 17 years in the RNZ Navy and is now a Reservist, that inspired them to join the NZDF.

“I liked Andre’s stories, but I get seasick so preferred to serve on land,” Lance Corporal Taikato said.

“I liked the self-discipline required in the Army and in this role I travel a lot, so joining was good for me.”

She joined the Army in February 2015, completing her basic training at Waiouru Military Camp. She later did her movement operator trade training at Linton Army Camp and spent a couple of years there.

“Since then I’ve had a lot of trips away,” she said.  “I was deployed on a big exercise in the South Pacific with HMNZS Canterbury in April 2018, to Papua New Guinea for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in November and helped with the annual resupply mission in Antarctica.”

Her sister, Able Communications Warfare Specialist Taikato was also inspired by her cousin’s time in the RNZN and visited Devonport Naval Base when he was based there.

“I wanted to travel and play sport and I could do both of those in the Navy, as well as study. It’s a good lifestyle in the Navy,” she said.

After graduating from her RNZN basic training in December 2017, she trained as a Communications Warfare Specialist.
 
“This is my first ship and my first time offshore from New Zealand, so it was a great experience,” she said. “The biggest challenges were learning the ship, no phone service, and leading the Morale Committee on board – getting everyone involved.”

MIL OSI

NZ Sailor Shipwrecked in Pacific Thanks NZDF Rescuers

Source: New Zealand Defence Force

28 March 2019

A Warkworth sailor who was rescued in the Pacific Ocean in November 2017 has met New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel involved in the successful search and rescue mission to thank them.

“All I want to say is a big thank you to the NZDF – an excellent job done. I’d like to apologise that it has taken me so long to make the connection,” experienced yachtsman Phil van der Mespel said.

Accompanied by his wife Jenny and their son Joel, Mr van der Mespel met personnel from the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s No.40 and No.5 Squadrons yesterday to express his gratitude.

The sailor was battling stormy conditions about 650 kilometres northwest of New Zealand on his way home from Vanuatu when his boat Waimanu’s mast broke about 4am on 18 November, 2017. One of the support blocks for the mast was catapulted out of the boat, ripping a large hole in the deck.

Buffeted by 40-knot winds and five- to six-metre swells, Waimanu, which had been with Mr van der Mespel’s family for 43 years, began to take on water.

Initially he thought he could pump the water out but the boat was filling up too fast, so after making three mayday calls on his VHF and firing three parachute flares, he got ready to abandon Waimanu.

“I winched the life raft right next to the boat and tossed in everything I needed – grab bag, food, bottles of water, first aid kit, clothes, duvet, and a satchel containing my passport, wallet and ship’s papers. I was expecting to be in the raft for three or four days.

“The deck of Waimanu was a foot or so above the sea when I stepped off the stricken yacht and into the life raft. As soon as I got the life raft ready, I activated my emergency radio beacon.

“And as soon as I had cut the raft free of the sinking yacht I turned around to take a photo of the boat in her last moments but she was gone.”

In New Zealand, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand picked up the distress call and sent a search and rescue request to the NZDF about 7am.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules, with a crew comprising personnel from No.40 and No.5 Squadrons, left Auckland about 9am.

With up-to-date information on Mr van der Mespel’s location from Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand, the crew found the yachtsman within a few minutes of arriving on-scene at 10:46am.

“I thought it was another crashing wave but when I peered out I saw the Hercules flying right over my raft,” Mr van der Mespel said.

“When you are floating around in the sea hundreds of miles from anywhere, to see an aircraft come for your rescue is the most reassuring thing in the world.”

After reporting the good news to Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand, the crew then contacted the nearest ship, commercial vessel MV Norfolk Guardian, to arrange Mr van der Mespel’s rescue and dropped a smoke flare to help it locate him.

The Hercules remained at the scene until he was safely on the rescue vessel about 2:30pm.

Squadron Leader Brad Scott, the aircraft captain of the Hercules, said meeting Mr van der Mespel was a special experience for the crew.

“It’s very rare for the team to have any further contact with the various people we assist,” he said.

“We feel valued and rewarded just by completing the job. The largest satisfaction comes from helping those in need, particularly when someone’s life is in danger.”

MIL OSI

Former Taranaki Man Returns to His First Navy Ship as Commander

Source: New Zealand Defence Force

29 March 2019

Commander Mike Peebles, who began his Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) training on Anzac frigate HMNZS Te Mana 18 years ago, has now returned as the ship’s new Commanding Officer.

Commander Peebles, 36, returned to HMNZS Te Mana earlier this month, becoming one of the youngest Frigate commanding officers in the RNZN’s history. 

Born and raised in Taranaki, Commander Peebles joined the RNZN immediately after gaining a University Bursary in his final year at New Plymouth Boys’ High School.

“All my mates went to university, but I had a love of the sea and wanted to do something different and exciting,” he said.

After he graduated from Junior Officer Common Training as a Midshipman, he was posted to HMNZS Te Mana in 2001 for three months at sea, during which the ship took part in a large international exercise off Darwin.

“I vividly remember standing on the bridge with fighter jets passing low overhead, buzzing the ship in simulated attacks,” he said. “That made a big impression on me as a fresh-faced 19-year-old and it cemented the feeling that this was where I should be.”

He followed that first posting with training as a warfare officer on inshore patrol and support ships and gained service medals for maritime operations in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea.

“I served as a bridge watch keeper and boarding officer during two operations post the 9/11 terror attacks, looking for narcotics and illegal weapons in the fight against terrorism,” he says. “It was great being able to put that early training into action being part of a team that was making a difference internationally.”

In 2005 he became Commanding Officer of the inshore patrol craft HMNZS Moa, conducting fishery and customs patrols around the New Zealand coast, and in 2009 he spent a year in the United Kingdom completing the Royal Navy Principal Warfare Officer Course at HMS Collingwood.

After roles at sea and on land after his return to New Zealand, in 2015 he assisted with the successful interception and confiscation of almost 260 kilograms of narcotics as part of a combined Task Force for Maritime Security Operations off the Coast of Africa.

“One of the highlights of that posting was being on the Gallipoli peninsula for the 100-year Anzac Day commemoration,” he said.  “I was proud to represent our country, Navy and ship as Te Kaha sailed past in an international formation.”

In recent years he has completed a staff and command course, graduating with a masters degree in International Security from Massey University, and served as Operations Planner at Joint Forces Headquarters in Wellington.

His command of HMNZS Te Mana begins with the ship based in Canada, undergoing a systems upgrade.

“The regeneration package for the ship will result in new capabilities that will put us on par or above any navy in the world,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to developing and preparing the ship for the next stage of its life. We will be busy preparing for the future by bringing the ship back to New Zealand ready to advance New Zealand’s interests from the sea as a capable and credible fighting force.

“People are what makes the Navy and being part of this amazing team drives me.”

MIL OSI

NZDF Helps Transport Election Officials in Solomon Islands

Source: New Zealand Defence Force

26 March 2019

New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel have been transporting election officials, police and voting material to several remote communities in Solomon Islands as preparations increase for next week’s general election.

The NZDF has sent 55 personnel and two Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) NH90 helicopters to provide support for the Solomon Islands election as part of a combined operation with Australia, in response to a request from the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission.

The general election on 3 April is the first since the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands concluded in 2017.

RNZAF Squadron Leader Michael Adair said two NH90 helicopters had been providing back-up transport support as part of a Combined Task Group led by the Australian Defence Force.

Since arriving in Honiara in mid-March, the helicopters had flown election officials to several remote communities, Squadron Leader Adair said. These included Taro Island, which is 500 kilometres northwest of the capital Honiara, Gizo, the second-largest town in Solomon Islands, about 380 kilometres northwest of Honiara, and Munda, a town on the island of Munda which is 320 kilometres northwest of the capital.

“The NH90 is ideally suited to provide logistic support because of their ability to land in remote locations and fly for 2.8 hours without refuelling,” he said.

“Together with the Australian Defence Force’s MRH90 helicopters, we have been flying to outlying islands to transport election officials, ballot boxes and other election material under the guidance of Solomon Islands authorities.

“By providing this support we are helping Solomon Islands authorities ensure voting material is delivered across the country before election day.”

MIL OSI

Manawatu Woman Supports NZDF’s Dental Outreach in Hawke’s Bay

Source: New Zealand Defence Force

27 March 2019

Residents of Bulls may have noticed that a flower van called Ferdinand that was doing business at a local park had been missing in action in the past two weeks.

The reason was that owner Rene’e Mudgway, who is a New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Reservist dental hygienist, had been taking part in an NZDF dental outreach in Hawke’s Bay.

During the exercise, which ran from 11-22 March, New Zealand Army Sergeant Mudgway was part of a 30-member NZDF contingent that worked with Hawke’s Bay District Health Board to raise oral health awareness in the region by providing oral health education and treatment.

The outreach, called Exercise Wisdom Tooth, provided oral health care and treatment and visited schools to teach children about the importance of good oral health, Sergeant Mudgway said.

““It was great to connect with the community. It was also great to catch up and work with other members of the NZDF’s health team,” she said.
 
Sergeant Mudgway, who is originally from the coastal village of Houhora, about 30 minutes north of Kaitaia, said enlisting in the military was a leap of faith that led to a rewarding career.

“Service life sounded like a good adventure so my 17-year-old self took a chance,” she said.

Despite having two elder sisters in the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), Sergeant Mudgway enlisted in the New Zealand Army in 1998, a few months after graduating from Kaitaia College.

“I wanted to pave my own path, so I ticked the green box instead of the blue,” she said.

Initially she worked as a telecommunications operator and deployed to Bougainville and East Timor.

However, in 2004 she became a dental assistant and joined the Royal New Zealand Dental Corps. Three years later, the Army supported her in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in oral health from University of Otago.

“I’ve had so many amazing opportunities during my career – from deployments to a trade change to three years at university.”

The NZDF also supported her and her husband, who is an RNZAF Reservist, through flexible work opportunities as they balanced their busy work/life schedules, she said.

MIL OSI

Death of RNZN Sailor

Source: New Zealand Defence Force

27 March 2019

The New Zealand Defence Force is saddened to confirm that Able Communications Technician Zachary Christopher Yarwood (23) died in North Shore Hospital yesterday following an incident during a dive training exercise on Monday night at the Devonport Naval Base.

Able Communications Technician Yarwood joined the Royal New Zealand Navy in 2013 and served in HMNZS Te Kaha and Philomel. At the time of the incident, he was on an advanced diver training course, looking to join HMNZS Matataua as a qualified diver.
“My condolences are with Zachary’s fiancée, his parents and his two beloved brothers as they, along with us, come to terms with his passing,” said Chief of Navy Rear Admiral David Proctor.
 
“Today the Navy is mourning a young sailor who had already packed so much into his career and embodied our core values of courage, commitment and comradeship in everything he did,” said Rear Admiral Proctor. “Zachary’s loss will affect not only his family, but many within the Navy and the wider NZDF whanau.” 

Able Communications Technician Yarwood’s family are being supported by a Family Liaison Officer, his shipmates and the Royal New Zealand Navy. The NZDF requests that their privacy is respected at this difficult time.

Police, WorkSafe NZ and the Coroner are investigating the incident. The NZDF will be conducting a Court of Inquiry.

MIL OSI

Hawke’s Bay Soldier Gives Back to Home Town

Source: New Zealand Defence Force

27 March 2019

The New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) recent outreach programme in Hawke’s Bay gave Staff Sergeant Jonathan Pritchard a chance to share his skills with children in his home town.

During the outreach, which was called Exercise Wisdom Tooth and was conducted from 11-22 March, the NZDF teamed up with Hawke’s Bay District Health Board to provide oral health care information, dental care and treatment.

The combined team of military and civilian personnel also ran sessions at schools to highlight the importance of good oral health and healthy lifestyle choices, and provide defence career information.

Staff Sergeant Pritchard, a physical training instructor who was born and raised in Hastings, ran fitness challenges along with his colleague Corporal Elenoa Lilo  at a number of schools as part of the exercise.

“I was super excited to be working for the first time with Hawke’s Bay kids,” said Staff Sergeant Pritchard, who helps manage the gymnasium at Burnham Military Camp near Christchurch.

“One of the schools we visited was my former high school, Hastings Boys’ High School, and I really looked forward to it. Being able to give something back to my home town is undoubtedly a highlight.”

Staff Sergeant Pritchard also got to spend time with his parents at the end of the exercise.

Together with a cousin, Staff Sergeant Pritchard enlisted in the New Zealand Army after graduating from high school in 1998. He deployed on operations in Timor-Leste and Bosnia and took part in international exercises in Australia and Singapore.

He started as a gunner at 161 Battery and trained to become a physical training instructor in 2004.

“I have had varied opportunities in my Army career and I am looking forward to more interesting opportunities in the future.”

MIL OSI