Central Otago scene of war excersises

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A virtual battle has been taking place across Central Otago.

Around 160 personnel and 40 vehicles from Burnham Military Camp’s 3rd Combat Service Support Team (CSST) have been taking part in exercises at locations including Cromwell and Roxburgh designed to mimic real war scenarios.

Testing their readiness is Major Andrew Thornton.

“My role is the exercise director, so I’m sort of the puppet master.”

He had an “enemy party” that would surprise the team with unexpected activity.

The team had “no knowledge” about what they would be confronted with, Maj Thornton said.

CSST Commanding officer Major Rik Moore was responsible for running the team inside the camp, reacting to the situations designed by Maj Thornton.

“Everyone has a job, and everyone is busy.

“Time is ticking, so each time we are sent a task we’re under pressure.”

The team was designed to provide support to the front line including fuel, repairs, weapons, medical and food.

The tactical field kitchen could feed up to 250 people three hot meals a day and had been used for civil emergencies including the Kaikoura earthquake and the Port Hills fires in Christchurch, Maj Moore said.

Private Cameron McCann, of Invercargill, worked in the kitchen feeding the troops.

A high level of service was part of their training, as Burnham Military Camp were “the best military caterers in the country”.

When not in the kitchen he had other duties around the camp.

“You’ll do all the security, like work at the front gate, checking all the vehicles coming in, or you’ll do like a roving patrol.”

He had a personal connection to Central Otago.

“When I was a kid, I went to Roxburgh, to the health camp.”

He was disappointed to hear it had closed, “because it was part of my childhood, it was really good”.

Medical platoon commander Luis Caetanolima said his team was split into two specific capabilities.

“We’ve got an evacuation capability, which picks up essential wounded people from the edge of battle, and then we have a stabilisation capability.”

Wounded people were brought back to the camp, assessed and stabilised before being evacuated for surgery.

“Think of us as a sort of St John for people facing extreme trauma conditions from the battlefield, so anything from amputations being stabilised to gunshot wounds.”

Some of the scenarios his team had responded to during the exercise had been a soldier shot in the chest, amputation of a leg and traumatic brain injury, he said.

The New Zealand Army exercise was expected to run until November 26 at various locations around Central Otago, Maj Thornton said.