The Fiji Times
NZDF officers ‘live in the bush’ with Fiji soldiers to strengthen defence ties
THE New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) held a combat training exercise this month to boost bilateral relations between the two countries.
“Exercise Cartwheel 23 comes after the New Zealand and Fiji governments signed a Status of Forces Agreement in June, to further strengthen the two nations’ defence relationship. This will come into effect in the coming months,” the NZDF said in a press release.
According to the NZDF, a contingent of 92 New Zealand personnel were part of the annual exercise from September 3 to 25, which was led by the Fiji military and US Army Pacific, and also included Australia.
“The mountains and tropical valleys of Fiji’s Nausori Highlands provided the ideal grounds for jungle warfare and weapons training during Exercise Cartwheel 23,” it said.
NZDF senior national officer
Major Michael Doughty said the training expanded on what the NZ Army delivered in 2022.
He said the aim was to build light infantry and combat-support skills, while improving interoperability between nations.
“Last year we demonstrated the use of 81mm mortars and sustained fire machine guns, but there was no formal course for the RFMF soldiers,” Major Doughty said.
“This year, we’ve been providing courses for Fiji personnel, which means they’re receiving the same training as we do in these weapons systems.
“Our personnel from the 1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment and 16th Field Regiment delivered a mortar handlers course and a heavy machine gun course, for 3rd Battalion of Fiji Infantry Regiment students.”
The Fiji military’s contingent commander Major Mikaele Masiwini said the exercise was more than just combat training.
“Our relationship with the New Zealand Defence Force goes back well before this exercise and we have similar values to the Kiwis. We share the valuing of our family and our culture,” Major Masiwini said.
“A great example of this is that you do not need to invite the Kiwi soldiers to join in with our devotion - prayer time - or a meal, they just know to turn up.
“The Kiwis have led the way and shown the other nations on the exercise how to relate to our Fijian culture.”
As well as delivering training, NZDF personnel also donned their camouflage and learnt about jungle warfare alongside personnel from Fiji, the US and Australia, the press release said.
“This included jungle survival lessons from UK military trainers, rappel training led by the US contingent, and jungle lanes live field firing where troops advanced down a prepared route and engaged with a fictional enemy,” Major Doughty said.
NZDF Lieutenant Cody Broad, who was involved in delivering the mortar handlers course, said the exercise was a good experience.
“We lived with the Fijians, both in camp and in the field, and it was great really getting to know them and learning how to live in the bush,” Lieutenant Broad said.
“It was also great to be back ‘on the tools’ in Fiji as a soldier, and being able to compare ourselves against four other nations.”
Major Doughty said the NZDF had been training and working with its partners in the RFMF for many years.
“We’re really happy to have another opportunity to work together and continue to build on our interoperability, so that when we’re on operations together we understand and operate the same systems and know how each other works.”
He said the NZDF enjoyed working with, and learning from, its Pacific family.
He said the bilateral exercise ensures NZDF personnel were competent and well-resourced and ready “for employment across the spectrum of military operations”.
The NZDF is committed to support efforts to maintain a “secure, stable and resilient Pacific region benefits us all”, he added.
Textbooks sent to remote schools in Fiji
Meanwhile, a Royal New Zealand Air Force plane has delivered 8000 textbooks to Fiji’s Ministry of Education.
These are destined for remote schools with no internet access.
The books were given by the Fiji Association in Auckland and Learn Well Books and cover a range of subjects for Year 11 to 13 students.