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Upper Hutt man happy to help at Camp Taji in Iraq

Upper Hutt man Cliff Taylor joined the New Zealand Army to help people and he has just had that opportunity at an international level, with deployment to Camp Taji in Iraq mentoring soldiers to fight terrorism.

Lance Corporal Taylor was a member of the ninth New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) contingent to be deployed to Camp Taji, where they worked with Australian Defence Force (ADF) 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.

Lance Corporal Taylor, who joined the Army in 2011 after leaving Gisborne Boys’ High School, was probably always destined for a military career, given his strong family connection: his father has just finished a posting as Commandant Command and Staff College, while his grandfather served in the Royal Air Force, an aunt was a communications operator in the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) and several uncles were gunners in the RNZN.

Lance Corporal Taylor is a Network Engineer, whose principal role is to design, build and maintain secure computer networks to enable secure communication between NZDF personnel and those of the coalition.

In 2013, 2015 and 2017 he took part in Exercise Southern Katipo, New Zealand’s largest military exercise, which is held every two years in different parts of the country.

“These were great experiences, because of the size of the exercise and the fact it involves military personnel from other countries,” he said. “For me it was a great opportunity to use the skills I have developed and gain experience for deployments.”

The Building Partner Capacity mission was the first time he had been deployed overseas and he revelled in the experience.

“My day-to-day role in Taji involved maintaining strategic communications back to New Zealand and with our allies, as well as providing unclassified internet to Task Group members to be able to communicate with their families,” he said.

His biggest satisfaction from the deployment came from knowing his contribution mattered to the people of Iraq.

“Helping them build a safer and more stable country was hugely satisfying,” he said. “I enjoyed the challenges of working in that environment, which helped me improve my skills.

“I also enjoyed working with my Australian counterparts.”

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