While bringing soldiers and marines from Australia and Tonga to New Zealand for exercise Southern Katipo 2017, Royal Australian Navy landing ship HMAS Choules became part of the exercise scenario at Picton Harbor.
Choules demonstrated her versatility when she arrived alongside at Picton in New Zealand’s South Island only a week after supporting the real humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) mission operation Vanuatu Assist 2017.
As part of the Southern Katipo exercise scenario, Choules was approached by role-playing protestors in small boats during her transit through the Marlborough Sounds to the wharf at Picton, forcing her to close-up and practice force protection, assisted by HMNZS Wellington and a Royal New Zealand Navy Seasprite Helicopter.
Soldiers from the New Zealand Army provided security detail on the wharf so that Choules could safely come alongside and land six Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles, a number of Unimog trucks and G-Wagons, as well as troops from both the Australian Army’s 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, and the Royal Tongan Marines.
The commanding officer of HMAS Choules, Commander Dave Graham said exercise Southern Katipo provided the ship’s company with another good opportunity to test their interoperability with Australia’s neighbours in the southwest pacific.
“The most important thing here is that we are standing shoulder to shoulder with our mates in this region and demonstrating that we can all work together to provide a HADR response,” Commander Graham said.
Commander Graham said it was only three and a half weeks ago Choules was in Townsville, proceeding to Southern Katipo, when it was redirected to assist in Vanuatu.
“We were re-roled in a matter of days and able to go to Vanuatu and deliver an effect there that helped more than two-thousand people,” he said.
The troops landed ashore by Choules joined a 13-nation coalition force in the field where they are taking part in an international assistance mission-centered exercise scenario.
The biennial exercise Southern Katipo is the largest coalition and joint exercise conducted by the New Zealand Defence Force. New Zealand Navy’s multi role vessel HMNZS Canterbury also helped deliver soldiers to the exercise region.