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New Zealand Army joined by Royal Gurkha Rifles for combined training around Reefton

The famous Nepali Gurkha soldiers have swapped the heat of tropical jungles to get a different taste of the cooler plains and bush of the South Island’s Buller and Tekapo regions.

22 May, 2024

A combined training exercise between the New Zealand Army's 2nd/1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment and Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR) boosted Reefton’s population when 450 soldiers recently descended on the Buller town. 

Exercise Red Kukri involved around 250 soldiers from the NZ Army’s 2nd/1st Battalion, integrating with around 200 troops from the 1st Battalion RGR, part of the British Infantry comprised of Nepali soldiers.

RGR Dehli Company Officer Commanding, Major David Walker, said they made the journey to New Zealand for tough training and friendship.

“Being based in Brunei, we are the British Army’s jungle specialists. Coming to New Zealand’s plains and forests in winter provides us a valuable opportunity to train and develop our skills in a completely different environment and climate.”

Just as important is the opportunity to mix with - and learn - from 2nd/1st Battalion, he said.

“Delhi Company takes experimenting and learning seriously. We want to see how others approach situations, experiment, discuss and learn.

“We also wanted to experience some unique New Zealand Defence Force customs and traditions, while sharing some of ours.”

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Red Kukri 2

The exercise marks another step up in training for 2nd/1st Battalion, which spent two weeks working through various maneuvers and scenarios, developing warfighting capabilities focused on operating in the close country.

This included conducting patrols around the Reefton community and moving into local bush for tactical “close country” training, all managed from the battalion headquarters.

2nd/1st Battalion Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Sam Smith, said getting back into the close country and developing the core skills of an infantry battalion enables soldiers at every rank a chance to hone their skills.

“From conducting attacks on a target, to ambushing and patrolling for extended periods in rough terrain and weather – all of this will challenge the unit,” Lieutenant Colonel Smith said.

Training with international partners like the Gurkhas improves our ability to integrate into multinational forces on the battlefield and shows how we can scale our capabilities.

The RGR soldiers arrived in New Zealand from Brunei in mid-April, spending time at the Tekapo Military Training Area before travelling to Buller.

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As well as integrating with international partners, it was a chance for support elements from Burnham Military Camp to provide communications, transport, catering and engineering support.

Exercise Red Kukri also involved training personnel with Network Enabled Army (NEA) equipment - helping the NEA project team gather valuable data on the implementation of the new technology which modernises the NZ Army’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

“The NEA programme is essential in preparing our soldiers for modern warfare, and in the exercise we were able to live track our sections throughout their attacks,” Lieutenant Colonel Smith said.