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Army’s Biggest Exercise Explosive Success

Army’s Biggest Exercise Explosive Success

Exercise Silver Fern was the largest land based exercise conducted this year and has provided the greatest concentration of soldiers and current NZ Army capabilities for some time and has been a significant step in continuing to regenerate capabilities with a view to motorisation in 2004.

The exercise has been conducted in Waiouru since 27 Oct and concludes today with troops returning to Linton Camp near Palmerston North. Approximately 1400 Army and Air Force personnel participated in the Exercise. Exercise Silver Fern represented a significant training activity for the New Zealand Defence Force this year and included combined training for infantry, armour, artillery and supporting arms and logistics.

The exercise scenario placed a New Zealand Battalion Group into the field within an offensive combined arms operation as part of a Brigade (three infantry battalions) setting. The aim of the exercise was to practise battalion and company level offensive operations supported by co-ordinated fire support (artillery and mortars) and controlled by a deployed brigade headquarters.

The exercise achieved the training objectives planned for and highlighted areas for continued improvement. Brigadier Southwell, the Land Component Commander said “This exercise was designed to practice and evaluate our war fighting skills in urban terrain, open country and the bush, using Armoured Personnel Carriers, supported by live firing Artillery and Mortars. The exercise commenced with blank firing training and concluded with live firing activities combining all elements of the NZ Army from logistics through to infantry. A good number of soldiers and equipments were absent from the exercise having been deployed on operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Solomon Islands.

Upper most in our minds was the need to rebuild our ability to command and control these fast paced operations. I was extremely impressed by the way our soldiers and officers tackled this particularly challenging exercise. We did however, identify gaps in our capability, which are the result of a long commitment to low level operations, and associated low levels of ammunition expenditure, compounded by some long endured equipment shor falls. We will need to address these matters urgently as we move toward a motorised Army over the next few years.”

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