Reshaped battalions show their new colours

By Laurel Stowell

Members of the reshaped New Zealand Army Territorial Forces paraded together in Wellington last Sunday.

There were 100 soldiers and officers in all, representing the 1800 in the forces.

Light rain did nothing to dampen the occasion, a defence force spokesperson said.

"It was lovely. A really cool event."

The country's six territorial battalions have amalgamated into three, one for the north of the North Island, one for its south and another for the whole of the South Island. The change has been taking place since December 2011 and is part of the Total Defence Workforce approach.

The former Wellington West Coast and Taranaki Regiment had 150 members and bases in Wanganui and New Plymouth. It amalgamated with the Wellington Hawke's Bay Regiment, which had 250 people and bases in Wellington, Napier and Gisborne.

They combine to form 5th/7th Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (5/7 RNZIR).

It will aim to have 200 soldiers ready for action, and an unlimited number of others on stand-by. Its commanding officer is Lieutenant Colonel Ian MacDonald, who will be based at Trentham Military Camp.

Its regimental sergeant major will be Warrant Officer Class One Wayne McAsey.

Its Wanganui headquarters in Maria Place will remain as a training base for 5/7 RNZIR.

Before amalgamation the Wellington West Coast and Taranaki Regiment had 150 soldiers, 25 of them from Wanganui and quite a few of them Manawatu-based Massey University students. Those 150 are part of the new "streamlined" battalion and there may be some rationalisation of numbers through natural attrition.

Territorial soldiers, to be called reservists in future, have other jobs and careers and train for 20 days a year.

A defence spokesperson said under the new arrangement 5/7 RNZIR soldiers will train at a wide variety of locations and continue to remain integrated into their communities.

The overall Commander of the Territorial Force said it would continue to serve as it always had. It is called on for emergencies such as floods and earthquakes and international operations such as peacekeeping in East Timor.

The changes were about increasing frontline military capability and the Defence Force was committed to maintaining historical and community links with all its battalions, the officers said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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