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The Regiment in 1999

Maj Shay Bassett, RNZA

At short notice, Maj Shay Bassett replied to the toast of "The Regiment" at the 1999 Taupo reunion dinner. Here are excerpts from his address.

This year has been a very busy year for the Regiment. We have had to grapple with not only the existing workload, the hardest I have seen in 20 years, but we have also had to provide assistance to a number of activities ranging from the funeral for Lt Gen Sir Leonard Thornton, to the supporting and training for East Timor.

In early 1999, we hosted the Singaporeans during "Thunder Warrior 99". This exercise lasted throughout January and was a continuation of the relationship the NZ Army has built up with the Singaporean Army over many years. February to April saw the majority of the unit either being instructed or instructing on courses at the School of Artillery in an intensive individual training period designed to leave the rest of the year free for collective training. Unfortunately there wasn't much time to fully test this new programme as the Regiment was required to send a 120 man battery to Australia in May, for a month, on exchange with a battery from 4 Fd Regt in Townsville. Nevertheless, Kapyong Battery (a title we use to avoid arguments when both RF batteries are involved together in an activity) acquitted themselves well as always.

Of course, I can't omit the rigours of APEC from any summary of 1999. As part of the largest troop movement in recent memory, around 600 soldiers were moved by troop train to Auckland for the APEC leaders' meeting on 10 September, and were quartered at the Stanley Street Tennis Courts until we left on 13 September. During this time 161 and 163 Batteries alongside 1 RNZIR and a squadron from QAMR, provided security for the leaders' meeting on two of the sectors in the Domain. At the same time, a number of officers and soldiers from 16 Fd Regt were conducting their final preparation for deployment to Darwin, then East Timor. An event which, as you know, grew to a battalion deployment which the Regiment became responsible for training and deploying.

There have been a number of structural changes in the organisation of the NZ Army that have had significant impact on the RNZA. As part of the continuing rationalisation of the TF and move towards the One Army concept, the TF batteries have been placed under the command of the new regional regiments. These units are based on the former TF infantry battalions with each having a specific role as well as an all-arms training function. In the changes at this stage are as follows: 11 (A) Battery and 4 Medium (G) Battery have now become the Indirect Fire Support Company of the Auckland Regiment, while 22 (D) Battery and 32 (E) Battery have become OP troops for the Wellington and Canterbury Regiments respectively. 31 (B) Battery has unfortunately met its demise. However, on the positive side, the TF are now taking a far more active part in what were previously regarded as purely RF activities, to the benefit of all concerned.

HQ Battery managed to squeeze into Linton at the beginning of the year, leaving 163 Battery and the School of Artillery as the last RNZA elements in Waiouru. It is anticipated that they will join the rest of the Regiment within the next two or three years.

2000 already looks to be another busy year for the RNZA, and of course of particular significance to 16 Fd Regt, it is the 50th anniversary of the Korean War.

November 1999
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