7 Apr 2015

Troops in Australia ahead of Iraq deployment

6:49 pm on 7 April 2015

More than a hundred defence staff have left for training in Australia ahead of their deployment to Iraq.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

They left from Ohakea Air Force Base this morning for a "mission readiness exercise" at Enoggera military camp near Brisbane.

The group includes a large number of personnel who will go to Iraq in the joint deployment with Australian troops, as well as exercise support staff.

Most will return to New Zealand at the end of the week, however some will remain in Australia prior to departure with the advance party.

Today's group follows up to 50 troops Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee confirmed last week were already in Australia training for the joint mission.

Mr Brownlee said defence staff would be finalising plans ahead of their deployment.

"It's about ensuring they are fully interoperational with the Australians, we'll get over one third of the contingent so we'll have to understand how everyone's going to work in with each other.

"And the other aspect of the next couple days will finalising the training programmes themselves for both Iraqi military and military trainers once they get there."

He said the forces would depart for the Middle East in May but would not say when.

Mr Brownlee also remained tight-lipped about legal protection of troops in Iraq.

The Government confirmed at the end of last month that it had struck a deal giving the troops legal protections while serving there.

He said there had been an exchange of notes between the two countries that gave New Zealand the protection it required for its soldiers.

Mr Brownlee said he would not be drawn on what protection they will have.

"Have a look at your TV every night and see how these people consider the rules of engagement, our guys are going there with a mandate to train troops, they are behind the wire but we make it clear that if they come under attack they will be able to defend themselves."

Mr Brownlee said details would not be released as the information could fall to the wrong people.

NZ Army soldiers carry out patrol exercises at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California last year as part of exercise Dawn Blitz.

Photo: NZ DEFENCE FORCE / US Marine Corps