Hills alive as soldiers take part in exercise

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A sophisticated game of hide and seek has been taking place in the hills above Alexandra.
A reconnaissance and surveillance platoon from 2nd/1st battalion of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment has been conducting training in Little Valley this week.
Commanding officer of 2/1 Battalion RNZIR Lieutenant ­colonel Michael van Welie said about 20 soldiers from the Christchurch-based battalion were taking part in the exercise.
‘‘The concept for this exercise is they have two elements — the reconnaissance element and the surveillance element.
‘‘Within the surveillance team we have snipers.’’
The snipers were tasked with arriving at a destination without being spotted by the reconnaissance team stationed at the top of a hill.
As well as being camouflaged, the teams used night-vision goggles and drones to help map a path that would avoid detection, Lt-col van Welie said.
Second in command of the platoon was Staff Sergeant Matthew Pearce.
A sniper team and a reconnaissance team were dropped into the area at 3am.
The reconnaissance team set up an observation point near the top of the hill, tasked with observing the terrain front of them.
‘‘Their job is to look for enemy snipers.’’
The snipers ‘‘crawled in’’ in the middle of the night.
‘‘Their goal is to get from point A to point B, close enough to then fire a live round.’’
In order to safely use live ammunition, when the sniper team was close enough to fire, the reconnaissance team was moved out of range and replaced with paper targets for the snipers to try to hit.
‘‘We pull the reconnaissance guys away behind the hill before they fire the live round.’’
The reconnaissance team had ‘‘a hell of a job’’ trying to find the snipers, Ssgt Pearce said.
One of the challenges for the reconnaissance team members was being able position themselves in a way that ensured they could see without being seen.
‘‘You’ve got to have that happy mix between good observation and being hidden.’’
At the end of the week, there would be a ‘‘box of beers’’ for the team that was most successful.
Ssgt Pearce thanked John and Neil Sanders for providing access to part of their land at Matangi Station.
Being able to run exercises like this one could only happen thanks to the generosity of landowners, he said.

Kill zone . . . Lance-corporal Nathan Tairea (left) helps Private Luca Soares Gonzalez line up his shot as part of a live firing exercise in Alexandra. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON