Major Jade Hamilton. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Wairarapa man Jade Hamilton joined the New Zealand Army for adventure and he has got plenty of that, with deployment to Camp Taji in Iraq mentoring soldiers to fight terrorism.
Major Hamilton was a member of the ninth New Zealand Defence Force contingent to be deployed to Camp Taji, where they worked with Australian Defence Force personnel to mentor Iraqi soldiers. The contingent returned to New Zealand last week.
About 46,000 Iraqi Security Forces personnel have been trained by the NZDF/ADF Building Partner Capacity mission since 2015 and over time the focus has shifted from training soldiers to mentoring trainers in the Iraqi Security Forces.
Major Hamilton, who is from Kahutara and attended Kurunui College in Greytown, was attracted to sign up in 2007 by army posters placed around the school.
“Growing up, I enjoyed sports and the outdoors and those posters sold me on the idea,” he said. “I just loved the promise of adventure and the fact that it was something different.
“Once you are in you find there is such a great sense of teamwork and such a variety of roles that there is something that would appeal to almost everyone.”
This was Major Hamilton’s second deployment to Camp Taji, having been posted there in 2016-17 with the fourth rotation of NZDF soldiers to the training mission.
Before that, he was deployed to the Solomon Islands during national elections in 2010 to support the regional assistance mission, and to Bamyan Province in Afghanistan in 2010-11, as part of the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction team.
This time, his role as Training Team Officer Commanding in Taji was to oversee and manage the delivery of training and mentoring of mentors to the Iraqi Security Forces.
“At this stage of the mission we concentrated on training and mentoring the Iraqi instructors, who are the ones who actually deliver the training to the [Iraqi] soldiers,” he said.
“On the previous deployment we were training the Iraqi units directly. It is pleasing to see the progress that has been made in the past few years, with the shift to training and mentoring the instructors, so that Iraqis can train Iraqis.”
The other huge difference was the urgency surrounding the training on his previous deployment, Major Hamilton said.
“ISIS was still a huge threat in many parts of Iraq and the battle to retake Mosul was at its height, so the focus was primarily on equipping, training and preparing the ISF for the immediate fight.
“It was good to see the progress that the ISF had made in securing Iraq since I was last there.”
A normal day for the contingent in Taji started early, to beat the heat, he said.
“We headed out to the training areas and linked up with our ISF trainers and training audience, co-ordinated the training for the day, stood back and observed the trainers giving lessons and executing training activities, conducted an after-action review and then returned to our work place to prepare for the following day.
“Then it was gym, social time, sleep, repeat.”