Army heads hit back at combat training claims

Exercises such as this one (with an acting tribal chief) were supposed to train the troops and their commanders for situations they would face in Afghanistan. Photo / Supplied
Exercises such as this one (with an acting tribal chief) were supposed to train the troops and their commanders for situations they would face in Afghanistan. Photo / Supplied

Army chiefs and the Defence Minister have hit back at claims that ill-prepared soldiers were sent into combat in Afghanistan.

A report leaked to the New Zealand Herald has strongly criticised the training given to an army contingent sent to Afghanistan which lost five of its members in combat.

The report was written by a sergeant in military intelligence who reviewed the group's preparation in Hawkes Bay, where the troops performed exercises simulating situations they were likely to encounter in Bamiyan province.

In response, Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said he rejected claims the NZDF Crib 20 rotation to Bamyan in Afghanistan, which suffered the loss of five lives, was inadequately trained.

In a statement, he said: "The NZDF prides itself on its professional standards. This rotation was assessed by the NZDF as trained to assume full operational duties in Bamyan."

"The report to which the NZ Herald refers was one of 23 evaluations conducted during pre-deployment training which contributed to a final training report," he said.

And a statement sent simultaneously by the Vice Chief of Defence Force, Major General Tim Keating, said the troops had been "independently assessed as capable, having completed all the appropriate PDT and in-theatre training. CRIB 20 personnel were focused, positive and ready to get on with the job".

He said the leaked report mentioned in the Herald article is only one report written by one of 23 evaluators and mentors (Subject Matter Experts) who observed Exercise Afghan Step.

He said the further training needs were identified as a result of monitoring of the training exercise. He said in a statement: "There is always a requirement for some level of in-theatre/country specific training for any mission, this in theatre training also addressed the areas identified for further training during Ex Afghan Step in NZ."

- Herald on Sunday

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