US First Lady Visits Kiwi Base In Afghanistan
9 June 2008
US First Lady Visits Kiwi Base
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The First Lady of the United States paid a visit to the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team (NZPRT) in Bamyan Province, Afghanistan, yesterday.
Under a bright mid-morning Bamyan sky Mrs Laura Bush was greeted with a haka before meeting NZPRT Commander Colonel Darryl Tracy and other members of the PRT.
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Following the greeting, Mrs Bush thanked the PRT for their warm welcome and for New Zealand's work in Afghanistan on behalf of President Bush and the people of the United States.
Colonel Tracy replied that the NZDF personnel enjoy their work in Bamyan.
"We are a small nation with a small Defence Force but we appreciate very much the relationship we have been able to forge with our United States coalition partners. We enjoy working beside them and under their command."
Mrs. Bush was also introduced to the men and women in each task group of the New Zealand Defence Force contingent, New Zealand Police, U.S. and Singaporean Armed Forces and civilians who work and live at Kiwi Base.
Major Justin de la Haye had the honour of being Mrs Bush's escort officer "Mrs Bush was very knowledgeable about New Zealand's contribution to Afghanistan. She was a very charming lady and was very interested in the history of the Haka," Major De la Haye said.
The First Lady's three hour trip to Bamyan province included a visit to an Afghanistan National Police training centre where New Zealand Police officers mentor training instructors, an orphanage, a women's business workshop and a ground breaking ceremony for a new road in the Bamyan bazaar.
The 134-strong NZ PRT is tasked with assisting in security and reconstruction in Bamyan Province. There are also two non-commissioned officers assisting with training the Afghan National Army, five officers in International Security Assistance Force HQ positions, one military liaison officer with the United Nations Assistance Mission, and two medical specialists with the Canadian Multinational Medical Unit at Kandahar.
There are currently 624 New Zealand Defence Force personnel are deployed on 16 operations, UN missions and defence exercises around the world.