Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Suicide soldier's commander defends training

Corporal Douglas Hughes.
Corporal Douglas Hughes.

The commanding officer of the New Zealand Army deployment on which Corporal Douglas Hughes committed suicide while in Afghanistan has defended the training of the unit before its went overseas in 2011, despite telling a court of inquiry he had reservations about whether it was ready to go.

Colonel Brett Wellington appeared with the Defence Force at the foreign affairs, defence and trade committee yesterday and was asked about Crib 19, the deployment during which Corporal Hughes took his own life.

Labour MP Phil Goff asked about findings that the training before deployment was two weeks shorter than the usual five weeks, training on stress management was rushed, and both the commanding officer and the warrant officer were not confident the unit was adequately prepared "but felt they had no choice but to deploy anyway".

Colonel Wellington said the unit had not done all the usual training before it left but he believed it was ready to go despite the shorter time.

It had done its theatre induction training in Afghanistan instead of in New Zealand.

Asked by Mr Goff whether that meant the court of inquiry was wrong to have said he had reservations, Colonel Wellington said the reduced training "had put pressures on us in respect of achieving competencies we would normally achieve before deploying overseas".

- NZ Herald

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