A changing of the guard in Solomon Islands
12 August 2008
Chief of Army MAJGEN Lou Gardiner led a delegation of senior officers to RNZAF Whenuapai in July to welcome home peacekeepers returning from a four month Op Rata deployment to Solomon Islands.
Of the 44 soldiers deployed, 33 were Territorial Force drawn from the Auckland Northland (ANR) and the Hauraki Regiments.
Waiting to meet them with CA were TFA, Brigadier Ants Howie, SMA, WO1 Bo Ngata, and the commanding officers of the Hauraki Regiment, LTCOL Warren Banks and ANR, Colonel Paul Bayly.
“This is the second deployment to Op Rata we have conducted in conjunction with the Haurakis and like the first time, this has been a very successful collaboration. ANR personnel deployed represented the entire Auckland area and were drawn evenly from across the four cities of greater Auckland,” said COL Bayly.
MAJGEN Gardiner thanked the waiting families for the support they provided the deployed personnel and praised the commitment of the soldiers. “Thank you for the support you give our people overseas. If we don’t have family and friend support, our soldiers can’t deploy so your support is absolutely necessary.
“We thought we’d be struggling to do Op Rata 4 but last week I farewelled Rata 7 and there are still plenty of volunteers.The TF has really stepped up to the challenge to provide vital needed support for the Regular Force.”
Op Rata 4 Platoon SGT Charlie Harrison, of the Hauraki battalion enjoyed the experience. “I have been in the TF for 28 years and this was my first deployment, and it was an interesting change from my civilian job.”
ANR soldier CPL John Goodwin deployed as a section commander and rated the provincial period of the deployment, when the section worked in remote areas away from Honiara, as the highlight of the experience. CPL Goodwin, an accountant in civilian life, has served for nineteen years in the TF and said the deployment had been worth waiting for.
Meanwhile, a vet, a postie and a DOC Ranger are three of the 44 mainly Territorial Force (TF) personnel who headed to Solomon Islands in mid-July to replace the returning soldiers.
The contingent, drawn mainly from the 5th Wellington West Coast Taranaki and 7th Wellington Hawke’s Bay Battalions, is the seventh rotation to support the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands. Led by Major Bede Fahey who is normally employed by the NZ Police, the Kiwis will carry out patrols, liaise with locals, provide assistance to police and help with external security at Rove Prison.