A combined training team from the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and Ministry of Defence will this week begin working alongside Fijian counterparts in areas ranging from basic hydrography to advanced combat first aid as part of a new training initiative in the Pacific Island nation.
This is the first time that such a large group has deployed to Fiji to team up to train, coach, mentor and embed alongside military and defence counterparts.
Defence Advisor to Fiji Lieutenant Colonel Josh Wineera said the COVID-19 environment had required a rethink of engagement with military partners, particularly in the Pacific.
“The NZDF has well established health protocols and we have reassured the Fijian Ministry of Health that our deploying personnel will abide by regulations to ensure the safety of the Fijian public,” LTCOL Wineera said.
“We have achieved two military activities this year that have taken into account Fiji’s COVID-19 regulations. The first was when Royal New Zealand Air Force aircraft delivered humanitarian aid after Tropical Cyclone Harold in April and then in July, HMNZS OTAGO carried out a ‘no-contact’ fuel stop while the ship was conducting joint fishery patrols with the Fiji Navy,” he said.
“This combined training team represents the first face-to-face contact between our nations this year and clearly demonstrates the trust between our two militaries in partnering for essential training.
“Working with our counterparts and growing capability is something we really enjoy doing. We’re very pleased to have been welcomed by the Government of Fiji and Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) to assist in this way,” he said.
RFMF Chief of Staff Captain (Navy) John Fox said the combined training team was the largest such contingent to deploy to Fiji this year.
“When we first talked with the NZDF about the team it was evident that this was a bold idea to support our capacity building programme, especially as COVID-19 continues to be a major global concern. But we worked together to get the Kiwis in and the RFMF looks forward to the training and reaffirming our defence partnership,” he said.
The Senior National Officer for the combined training team, Lieutenant Colonel John Barclay, said everyone in the team was excited about the initiative and looking forward to getting underway this week, having completed 14 days managed isolation in Fiji.
LTCOL Barclay said the 15-person team included those skilled in hydrography, advanced combat first aid, an armourer for weapons maintenance, as well as those who taught instructional techniques for instructors, and trained shooting coaches.
“In the team, we also have a senior policy analyst from the Ministry of Defence who will share her expertise in policy development with the Fijian Ministry of Defence and National Security. Another team member will assist with policy and doctrine development for the RFMF.”
A NZDF psychologist was also in the team: “She will provide valuable support to developing selection and recruitment criteria when recruiting intakes for the RFMF,” said LT COL Barclay.
The team will be based in Suva, carrying out training and providing support to counterparts in Fiji from October to November. They will complete 14 days managed isolation on their return to New Zealand.