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'We have come to help'
While most Kiwis had settled into the routine of Christmas, with family and friends, for a young group of New Zealand Defence Force personnel, this Kiwi summer tradition was once again interrupted by the daily duty to respond to assist those who had experienced a disaster.
In response to the 26 December 2004 tsunami, NZDF personnel and Force
Elements (FE) were deployed to the affected region in South East Asia
for a period of 30 days to provide immediate humanitarian assistance.
Headquarters Joint Force New Zealand started planning 27 December 2004
to deploy a RNZAF Hercules to Indonesia.
Planning for the deployment of the NZ Hercules was based on the aircraft working in conjunction with the Australian Defence Force (ADF), which coordinated relief operations in Indonesia.
The Hercules left New Zealand 28 December 2004, prepared to transport humanitarian assistance freight in the Indonesian area under the auspices of the ADF Combined Joint Headquarters.
The aircraft collected freight at RAAF Base Richmond (Water Filtration Equipment) to deliver to Medan (Indonesia). Additional payload transported during its’ deployment included relief workers and displaced Indonesians, humanitarian freight, vehicles and emergency rations. This Hercules returned to New Zealand 08 January 2005.
A second Hercules departed New Zealand 2 January 2005 bound for Jakarta, On board were an Air Load Team (ALT), maintenance crew, medical supplies and thirteen troops from the Light Medial Team (LMT). An additional ALT team deployed by commercial airline flight on 6 January to support the Hercules crew based in Halim. The second Hercules remained in theatre for the entire duration of Operation Sumatra Assist, transporting humanitarian freight, relief workers, displaced Indonesians, and media. It also facilitated the rotation of LMT personnel at the end of January, and the extraction of personnel at the end of February.
Some statistics from the RNZAF Hercules Flights.
Operation Phuket Assistance
An emergency response team of 16 NZ Police (Disaster Victim Identification Unit) and 2 Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials were deployed into Phuket (Thailand), along with NZDF Air Load Teams, communications, aeromedical evacuation and public relations personnel.
The B757 departed New Zealand 30 December 2004 and arrived in Phuket
31 December 2004, subsequently redeploying to Kuala Lumpur for further
assistance flights. It conducted it’s first strategic air lift in
support of Operation Sumatra Assistance on 5 January 2005, deploying ADF
logistic support personnel into Indonesia. The B757 returned to New Zealand
9 January 2005.
Light Medical Team (LMT)
The LMT concentrated at RMAF Butterworth (Malaysia), prepared for a 30 day deployment.
The NZ LMT was functioning team (in terms of communications, medical, drivers, logistics, etc) ready to work from Day One. In conjunction with the ADF the LMT established an ANZAC Field Hospital, increasing the hospital capacity from nil on arrival, to 25 beds. All facilities were surrounded by mud and sewage, and earthquakes were a frequent occurrence. Meals were provided by the ADF ration packs, accompanied by fresh fruit and bread every three days.
LMT Work included:
Rotation of LMT(A) and LMT(B)
Withdrawal of NZDF personnel
The NZ Embassy in Jakarta confirmed the NZDF Light Medical Team in Banda Aceh and the Air Loading Team and C-130 at Halim Air Base in East Jakarta had provided an essential role in relief efforts. Reports from NZDF personnel in Indonesia indicated the need for military assistance had dwindled with UN civilian agencies taking control. The ADF planned to withdraw the bulk of its forces at the end of February. Consequently the New Zealand LMT (B) and some RNZAF personnel arrived home 26 February 2005, with the last element in theatre, a Hercules and crew arriving home 25 February 2005.
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