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Using stealth as a weapon: Exercise Kalami

Under their feet, the decaying remnants of ancient kahikatea and silver beech trees rustled and crackled as Army reserve soldiers carefully tried to thread their way silently through the lush West Coast forest south of Maruia.

15 July, 2022

By John Cosgrove

The deep and spongy humus underfoot hid holes spawned by decaying trees which caught out many a soldier trying hard to complete their task as silently as possible.  

New Zealand Army Reserve Force soldiers were taking part in Exercise Kalami, Alpha Company 2/4 Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment’s latest field exercise in an area of operations situated below Murchison in the central northern South Island.  

Their task seemed simple: follow a defined bearing through the bush, but the decaying undergrowth and limited views in the dense forest challenged them all as they patrolled laden with weapons and packs, all while an active enemy party confronted them at every turn in the trail.

Soldiers patrolled through the bush with stealth

Alpha Company, officer commanding, Captain Penny Roy, said the weekend-long training exercise was focused on training sections Tactics, Techniques and Procedures.   

“This was building on the individual solider skills training we had conducted in March,” she said,   

“There were a lot of lessons learnt by the soldiers over the weekend, from an individual level and right up to the section commanders understanding their tasks, time appreciation and how to manage their soldiers through an assault on an enemy position." 

“This exercise was a good building block to move towards the next exercise, where we will live field fire later in the month,” she said.  

Exercise Kalami saw 60 officers and soldiers in attendance from Nelson, West Coast, Timaru and Christchurch.  

Captain Roy said Alpha Company had sought the help of Charlie Company (who provided a number of soldiers with more specialist skills) to add another element to the training.   

Soldiers were put to the test during Exercise Kalami

The weekend began with Platoon HQs taking the sections through a round-robin of lessons.   

Soldiers practised their section and individual contact drills when faced with an entrenched enemy, what to do as a section when there were casualties during a contact, how to prepare for attacking enemy positions, how to walk and patrol stealthily through dense bush, cross obstacles and what tactics and field craft skills they needed to learn in this challenging environment.  

The afternoon saw the sections conduct rehearsals and prepare for the next 24 hours.   

The sections then deployed independently into the bush to conduct a night harbour and prepare for a deliberate task early the next morning.   

Once that was all wrapped up, the soldiers got stuck into the post-exercise admin and were rewarded with a BBQ lunch before heading back to their various home locations.   

They were preparing for their next training exercise which will be conducted using live ammunition.  

Exercise Burma will be held in Kumara on the West Coast, and will be used to confirm the section battle drills learnt.