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Minister farewells Burnham troops

The Minister of Defence Mark Burton has thanked the personnel of the 2nd First Battalion Group as they prepare to deploy in East Timor.

Speaking at a farewell parade in Christchurch today, the Minister said the battalion group would be fulfilling New Zealand's on-going commitment to regional peace and security.

"No country takes lightly the decision to commit its young men and women to military activity of any kind overseas.

"This Government and Parliament as a whole strongly supports the contribution you will be making to peace keeping in our region," Mark Burton told the troops.

"I am confident that we are sending world class personnel who will acquit themselves well whatever the challenges. You go well prepared and your training has been broad. I am confident that you will continue the high standards achieved by those whom you will replace, from the First Battalion."
Mark Burton acknowledged that the risks are real.

"The militia still have the potential to cause problems, the infrastructure is basic and the terrain and weather difficult. Sadly, two New Zealand soldiers have died in East Timor."

Warrant Officer Tony Walser and Staff Sergeant Bill White are the first New Zealand soldiers to die on operational duty in 28 years. A funeral service for Bill White with full military honours will be held in Taumaranui on Wednesday.

The Burnham-based 2nd/First Battalion group will replace the Linton-based First Battalion, which has been serving in East Timor with distinction since September last year.

The first contingent will leave on Wednesday with other contingents following throughout May.


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