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Soldiers' skills and endurance put to the mettle in Skill at Arms competition

New Zealand Army's 1st (NZ) Brigade recently held its coveted Skill at Arms (SAA) competition at Waiouru Military Training Area.

28 March, 2024

Colonel Ben Bagley, Commander NZ 1st Brigade said the competition consists of a range of activities based around the four military core skills of “shoot, move, communicate and medicate”. 

Over 42 hours, teams of 10 soldiers walked close to 40 kilometres between stands carrying around 35 kilograms on their back, surviving on minimal sleep and food, and managing changing and arduous conditions.

Each of the 13 stands they encounter tested core military skills and included close armed combat, night shooting, constructing a barbed wire fence, coordinating an artillery and air response while under attack, crossing a body of water using a pack as a flotation device, and administering first aid in the field. The competition culminated in the Falling Plate shoot - the ultimate test of skill, accuracy and speed.

Colonel Bagley said his role is to ensure NZ Army soldiers - led by professional and trusted leaders - are physically and mentally prepared to meet the rigours of military operations. 

“Skill at Arms is designed to test the resilience, endurance, teamwork, and leadership of those soldiers taking part. Competitions where core skills are tested in a pressure environment is an effective way to see how we’re doing.”

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Warrant Officer Class One Stephen Montgomery (Monty) said the competition is as real as a training scenario can safely get and simulates what soldiers can expect in combat.

“Skill at Arms is not meant to be easy. To have a combat ready, well-led military team we need highly trained soldiers, and you don’t get that by accident - it must be earned. The fact that most soldiers finish the competition, and finish well, is a success.”

Captain Charles Dewes said Skill at Arms was physically and mentally challenging and could be life changing for those taking part.

“Soldiers leave everything out there on the field and they walk away with a sense of pride and achievement. From the soldiers’ perspective, they are looking at themselves, at their team, and how they performed individually, against each other and against other units. It’s a chance for soldiers to see where they stand in the bigger scheme of things and to pass those learnings onto other soldiers.”

Chief of Army, Major General John Boswell individually congratulated each member of the winning team, and acknowledged the level of commitment during the competition.

“These competitions are important as they benchmark us,” he said.

“They let us know exactly where we are in our core business and identify what we’re good at, and more importantly what we’re not good at. I saw a lot of soldiers really committed to our profession and trying to achieve the best possible results, and that was pleasing to see.”

Skill at Arms 2024 competition winners

The Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles (QAMR) took the coveted trophy, with 2nd /1st Battalion winning the Falling Plate trophy. QAMR team members were:

CPL Sain (Section Command); LCPL Tomlinson (2IC); TPR Simpson; TPR King; TPR Hall, TPR Terry; TPR Ngo; PTE Richards; TPR Aylward; TPR Rova; LCPL Bremnar (Res1); TPR Tahana (res2); and supported by CPL Low (Coach/Driver) and and LT Sheehan (Manager).

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Skill at Arms competition | New Zealand Army