HONOLULU, Hawaii -- For more than 77 years the 25th Infantry Division has had a unique and fruitful partnership with different nations across the Pacific. In mid-February the Tropic Lighting Asia Pacific Response Force Assessment Team conducted an emergency deployment and readiness exercise to New Zealand to continue the interoperability.
“The Division’s strong partnership with New Zealand allowed us a unique opportunity for the new team to exercise its rapid deployment capability as well as be trained and educated by a country that has a well-established humanitarian assistance and disaster relief framework deeply integrated across both its military and civilian response organizations,” Lt. Col. Jason Hetzel, 25th Inf. Div. APRF team leader said.
The EDRE allowed the 25th Inf. Div. team to receive training on New Zealand’s National Disaster Response Framework and set conditions for future engagements and exercise.
”These missions are absolutely critical to the 25th Inf. Div. as they reinforce our credibility and reliability within the Indo-Asia Pacific and continue to strengthen and build alliances and partnerships.”
The Tropic Lighting Division works closely with the New Zealand Defence Force. In an interoperability exchange, there is a permanently assigned New Zealand Army colonel assigned to the division headquarters. For the last two years, New Zealand Army Col. Trevor Walker has held the title of 25th Infantry Division Deputy Commander-Interoperability.
“New Zealand has had several HADR emergencies in the last few years, an earthquake in Christchurch in 2011 another earthquake in 2012,” Walker said. “So recent experience was also a part of why it was a good place for the EDRE team to go to and learn about those HADR type programs that New Zealand had been running recently.”
The EDRE focused on may key tasks to include: mission analysis, being able to deploy within 24 hours, link up with the U.S. Embassy in New Zealand as well as local disaster assistance teams.
“The 25th Infantry Division is expeditionary in nature and this EDRE allowed the assessment team to validate training objectives as well as identify gaps in our ability to deploy rapidly to an affected nation in the region,” Hetzel said. “Every deployment has unique challenges and this exercise allowed us to strengthen our core processes and procedures to be able to rapidly respond to a humanitarian assistance disaster.”
Walker said the EDRE mission to New Zealand had many opportunities to strengthen and continue to build on existing partnerships.
“When New Zealand can host visitors, and host them well, it makes both sides happy,” Walker said. “New Zealand gets to show off its capabilities to the 25th ID and [the 25th Inf. Div.] EDRE team comes back from New Zealand with the sharing of best practices and both groups benefit from it. Sharing experiences will improve both parties.”
Hetzel said the trip provided valuable information to the 25th Inf. Div. that can be shared across the Army.
“While the Indo-Asia Pacific presents unique challenges in disaster relief emergencies, it all comes down to people and relationships that make the absolute difference. Building partnerships and alliances ahead of those disasters are a critical component to mission success.”