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New Zealand Soldiers Train at the National Training Center

Feb 14, 2011

By Spc. Thomas Duval, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division

FORT IRWIN, CALIF, USA -- A new chapter in the partnership between the Armies' of New Zealand and the United States began Feb. 11 at the U.S. Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.

Four soldiers in the New Zealand Army's 2nd Land Force Group traveled to the NTC to take part in a training rotation with soldiers in the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, out of Fort Wainwright Alaska.

The training exercise is the culminating event before the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division deploys to Afghanistan later this year.

"This is a great chance for us to learn from the Americans and take what we learned back to New Zealand," said Sgt. John Morrison, an Armor with the 2nd LFG. "We go overseas together but don't get to do any training... its exciting."

The NTC is used primarily by the U.S. Army and is known for its realistic simulations and pyrotechnics that recreate a realistic combat environment.

During the two-week phase known to U.S. Soldiers as "The Box", the team of New Zealand soldiers will train side-by-side with 1-25 SBCT soldiers through a number of intense combat operation training scenarios.

"It's the closest thing to what we will experience while deployed," said Lt. Col. Jeff Stewart, commander of the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1-25 SBCT.

According to Col. Todd R. Wood, commander of the 1-25 SBCT, the New Zealand Army doesn't have a training exercise similar to that at the NTC.

"They (New Zealand soldiers) are able to come here and hopefully replicate and take ideas back with them to train their Soldiers," he explained.

Because the Stryker brigade is preparing for a deployment, Morrison said they would take a back seat and watch during much of the training, with the hopes of learning from their American counterparts.

New Zealand Army Sgt. Maj. Ray Kareko, echoed Morrison's thoughts and said working with allied nations makes the transitions during deployments easier.

Col. Wood said that the relationship between the United States and New Zealand has always been an important and dates back to World War II.

When the last Stryker vehicle hatch closes and the New Zealand soldiers return home, Morrison said he hopes it's not the last time the two forces will work together whether it is at NTC or anywhere else.

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