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NZ Army troops return from valuable exercise with French, Australian forces

The combat skills of 33 New Zealand Army personnel from 1 Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (1 RNZIR) have been tested in both urban and rural environments alongside their Australian and French counterparts in New Caledonia.

14 May, 2024

The two-week-long Exercise Tagata Toa saw 1 RNZIR soldiers overcome the language barrier to integrate with the Forces Armées en Nouvelle-Calédonie (FANC) and the Australian Army. 

Exercise Tagata Toa started with force integration training which included medical and combat scenarios, and drills. 

The field phase of the exercise then included casualty evacuations, urban clearance of a `hostile’ village, non-combatant evacuation operations and handling of prisoners of war. 

The NZ Army’s Senior National Officer, Lieutenant Mitchell Berryman, said the integration with the FANC and the Australian Army was achieved by not only doing the mahi but also finding lighter moments during shared hardships.

“It had rained for a week leading up to the trench clearance lessons, so they were filled with a metre of water. The soldiers jumped in with no worries, turning the unappealing task into a fun competition,” said Lieutenant Berryman.

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NZ Army soldiers undertook familiarisation with the FANC SA 330 Puma helicopter during force integration training

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Trench clearance lessons were made all the more challenging after a week of rain

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Forces Armées en Nouvelle-Calédonie (FANC) soldiers took on the role of ‘hostile’ forces for the urban clearance part of Exercise Tagata Toa

He said the exercise was very beneficial to the NZ Army, and gave soldiers the opportunity to work with and alongside the French and Australian armies to see how other forces operate.

“It’s reinforced our agility, when we had to pivot to accommodate changing plans both in the garrison and field phases of the exercise. That’s a crucial skill.

“I wish to thank our FANC hosts for their hospitality and friendship. Learning and working with a force we don’t usually operate with has been an awesome experience and we look forward to our next exercise together.”

The Kiwi contingent returned to New Zealand last week.