Community makes exercise a success

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The Southern Katipo 2013 operation would not have been successful without the support of the Waimate and Waitaki Valley communities, a military leader says.

The major international joint-force operation was held around the lower South Island, including Waimate and the Waitaki Valley, during November.

The military exercise was hosted by New Zealand and left its leaders feeling confident of meeting future targets set by the Government.

NZ Defence Force chief of staff Commander Peter Kempster said the operation would not have been successful without the support of Waimate and the Waitaki Valley.

“I want to say a really big thank you on behalf of all of the Defence Force for sharing their province over the past three weeks.”

People were waving and talking to the troops – they were generally just very friendly, he said.

“They were tremendous.”

One of the things the troops really enjoyed was the South Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral show in Waimate, Commander Kempster said.

A lot of the town boys and the international troops had not been to anything like that before, he said.

“The guys loved it.”

The exercise finished last weekend, with about 90 people being evacuated from Bluff and being taken by ship to Port Chalmers.

There were also shoot-outs at the Limestone Caves and in the Waitaki Valley over the weekend where “enemy militia” had been camping out and storing weapons.

They were working with nine other countries in this operation: Australia, Canada, France, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Singapore, Tonga, USA and the UK.

There was a closing ceremony yesterday at Burnham Military Camp.

The operation will be held again in 2015.

By RUBY HARFIELD