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Largest NZ Defence Force exercise in 15 years underway

Soldiers disembark from HMNZS CANTERBURY in Napier (20120427_WN_S1015650_0013).
Soldiers disembark from HMNZS CANTERBURY in Napier (20120427_WN_S1015650_0013).

Exercise Alam Halfa will involve approximately 1500 people from the NZ Defence Force bringing together maritime, land and airmobile forces. Troops will practise in a high-end combat setting, with the scenario requiring them to restore peace and transfer control of a fictional country back to law enforcement and democratic authorities.

"These exercises form a vital part of the NZ Army's operational cycle," says 1 (NZ) Brigade Commander Colonel Chris Parsons. "They allow us to prepare for a variety of likely contingencies to ensure that New Zealand can play its part in our region or around the globe reducing conflict and improving stability.

"This is the biggest exercise involving all three Services of the Defence Force since the Exercise Green Fern series in 1997/98."

Several hundred personnel from the NZ Army's 2/1 Battalion, based in Burnham Military Camp, arrived in the Port of Napier earlier this week, disembarking from the amphibious sealift ship HMNZS CANTERBURY. This coincided with the arrival of over 900 personnel from Linton Military Camp who travelled by road.

The majority of the exercise will be conducted within the Waiouru Military Training Area; however local residents throughout the central North Island should not be surprised to see personnel and vehicles as they move between locations over the coming week.

"Well over half of the military personnel in the Brigade, which has its major bases in Linton and Burnham Camps, will be taking part in the exercise. They will be supported by Navy ships and Air Force helicopters," says Colonel Parsons.

NZ Army personnel were initially scheduled to take part in a similar exercise during February and March 2011. However, Exercise Southern Katipo was cancelled as Defence Force assets were instead mobilised to respond to the Christchurch earthquake.

As is common with large-scale exercises of this kind, the NZ Defence Force will also be exercising with components from other militaries in the Pacific region. For Exercise Alam Halfa, 76 personnel from the US Army and the US Marine Corps Pacific forces will participate in the exercise.

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