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NZ Defence Force exercise with US Navy draws to a close

HMNZS CANTERBURY (foreground) and USS CLEVELAND accompanied by its landing craft and two Royal Australian Navy heavy landing craft and helicopters, departing Luganville. Credit- USS Cleveland PAO Images
HMNZS CANTERBURY and USS CLEVELAND accompanied by its landing craft and two Royal Australian Navy heavy landing craft and helicopters, departing Luganville. [Photo: USS Cleveland PAO images]

12 May 2011

After four weeks of humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) activities on Niuatoputapu in Tonga, and Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu, HMNZS CANTERBURY and the USS CLEVELAND have parted company.  The two ships and more than 850 combined personnel were together for the HADR exercise Pacific Partnership.

The exercise has been two firsts for the NZ Defence Force: the first time in more than 28 years that the US Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) have exercised together, and the first time a US-led exercise has been commanded from a RNZN ship.

Lieutenant Colonel Don Jones, commander of the NZ Defence contingent for Pacific Partnership, says the exercise had a first for him too.

“It’s the first time I’ve been on exercise with the US and they approach things a little differently to how Kiwis do, but it complements what we can do. They have a lot of resources and they’ve got big hearts. Having the people and MH60 helicopters that USS CLEVELAND was able to bring to the effort was excellent.”

Commander Jim Gilmour, Commanding Officer of HMNZS CANTERBURY, says that being a part of history when a US Naval Flag Officer shifted his pennant to a New Zealand ship for the first time ever, was particularly special.

“It was while we were at Niuatoputapu I got my first glimpse of USS CLEVELAND as she headed past, allowing one of her MH60 helicopters to deliver COMDESRON 23, Captain Jesse Wilson, US Navy, to take a first look at our ship. A couple of days later Capt Wilson returned with his staff and his pennant, and they commanded the exercise from HMNZS CANTERBURY for almost a month. It can’t be overstated what a big deal that has been for the RNZN, and I can honestly say that this past month has been one of the most satisfying in my career.”

New Zealand Defence Force medics, engineers, divers and builders have put 8500 man hours into HADR tasks on the ground in Niuatoputapu and Espiritu Santo, working alongside personnel from the US, Australia, France, Tonga and Vanuatu. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade supported the development work with approximately $500,000 of funding from the New Zealand Aid Programme.


Contact Nicole Munro, Defence Communications Group, 021 569 148.

For further information follow us on Facebook at NZ Defence Force, and on Twitter at NZDefenceForce.

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