7 Apr 2012

Afghanistan deployment 'well prepared'

2:50 pm on 7 April 2012

The commanding officer of the latest deployment of Defence Force personnel to Afghanistan says he is confident they are well prepared for the mission.

About half the members of the 140-strong contingent in the 20th rotation to the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan Province were leaving on Saturday from Burnham Military Camp and Ohakea Air Force Base. The rest will go later this month.

It will be the first deployment to the war-torn country for 90% of the personnel, although they will be in a relatively peaceful area.

Since the deaths of two PRT soldiers in three years, the Defence Force has boosted its pre-deployment and in-Afghanistan training.

Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Hall says training is constantly being improved as the Defence Force learns from the experience of the different rotations.

One of those killed was Private Kirifi Mila, who died when the Humvee he was travelling in rolled down a steep bank last year.

The Defence Force inquiry into his death found none of the occupants were wearing seatbelts and personnel were unaware of the roll-over procedures, which could have prevented his death.

Lieutenant-Colonel Hall says Humvee training is now a formal part of the handover between contingents.

He says the focus of the fresh team is on security and training the Afghan National Police.

Returning home

Meanwhile, the body of the fifth New Zealand soldier to die in Afghanistan is due to arrive home today.

Earlier this week the Defence Force announced that 26-year old Corporal Douglas Hughes, who was coming to the end of his six month deployment in Bamyan, sustained injuries while off duty and died later at Bagram Air Base.

Two other soldiers have been killed during operations in Bamyan, one in 2010 and one last year.

And two members of the SAS were killed last year in insurgent attacks in the capital Kabul.

Corporal Hughes' body is due to arrive in Auckland and will be met by his family, the Chief of Defence Force and other senior military officials, as well as members of his battalion.