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Wet and cold no drama for army

Army training exercises at the Higgins quarry. PHOTOS/KAREN COLTMAN

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Even with rain drizzling down, NZ Army warrant officer Erin Smith said Wairarapa conditions had been good for a five-day trade soldier training programme at the Higgins Quarry site on Norfolk Rd.

Smith has been in charge of 50 people during the exercise which ended its time in the region yesterday.

She joined the army aged 17 straight out of school. And 22 years later she has two deployments to the Middle East and one to East Timor under her belt.

“My role is to bring the troops back,” Smith said. “We organise the logistics to make it all work.”

Top: Private James Meredith, Lance Corporal Shauma Fischli and warrant officer Erin Smith, at right.

On Wednesday Private James Meredith and Lance Corporal Shauma Fischli stayed at base camp with Smith to organise food supplies and other domestics.

Most of the others were down training at the back of the quarry. Some who had done night exercises were taking their turn to sleep.

The first job for the solider trainees and staff when they arrived last weekend was to get communications systems set up, and then to scope and secure the site.

“We put the team needs first and the individual second,” Smith said. “We first set up immediate safety needs and then sort out the tents.”

After 16 weeks at Waiouru NZ Army Military Camp on Basic Common Training, all trainees go to Trentham Military Camp for a 12-week logistics course. They then sort out which trade to specialise in.

The Wairarapa training was part of the process for trainee soldiers to specialise in their chosen trade within the army.

After two to three years, the soldier reaches intermediate level and is ready for deployment. At four to six years they are senior commanders.

“Today [Wednesday] some are doing artillery exercises and others are carrying out roadside checks, while some are in charge of communications,” Smith said. “Some of the trucks are for food supplies, others for artillery equipment or hardware for the site.”

There are many components to an efficient army camp.

On Wednesday trainees went to Queen Elizabeth Park carrying out a refuelling exercise. They also went to Gladstone Park to set up a completely self-sufficient shower unit on the back of one of the trucks.

The ‘pop up’ army training camp packed up yesterday and headed in convoy to Manawatu and then planned to go to Hawke’s Bay. The last time they were in Wairarapa was two years ago.

“We like to mix it up a bit and get out to various communities,” Smith said. “Wairarapa is great as it has the rugged environment and space we need.”

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