New Zealand Defence Force engineers recently spent two weeks training 12 Tongan soldiers on construction planning and project management as part of a mutual assistance programme between the two militaries.
The training was conducted at His Majesty’s Armed Forces Naval Base at Nuku’alofa.
It came on the heels of a month-long multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capacity-building exercise in Vanuatu, called Exercise Tropic Twilight, which involved NZDF engineers working alongside personnel from the Vanuatu Mobile Force and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
Lieutenant Cam Gurney, from the New Zealand Army’s 2nd Engineer Regiment (2ER), who led the five-member NZDF contingent, said the training aimed to enhance the skills of HMAF (Tonga) construction personnel.
“These skills will help their junior leaders in planning, running and managing a range of construction projects, including buildings and roads,” Lieutenant Gurney said.
“We are pleased to have the opportunity to work closely with Tongan soldiers, and deepen the defence cooperation between our two militaries.”
Lieutenant Colonel Terry McDonald, the Commanding Officer of 2ER, said NZDF engineers were trusted by partner militaries for their skills and professionalism, and were deployed regularly to lead construction projects in Antarctica, the Middle East and the South West Pacific.
“Every sapper is a professional in their trade. Activities like the training we’ve recently delivered in Tonga and the capacity-building exercise in Vanuatu demonstrate this,” Lieutenant Colonel McDonald said.
During Exercise Tropic Twilight, which ended in late May, a joint team of engineers from New Zealand, Vanuatu and China helped build two medical staff houses and an aid post. The activity was funded in part by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.