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The opinions expressed in the following submission are his personal views in support of the Chief of Army 2020 Directive .

The Southwest Pacific Area of Operations

The NZDF’s strategic plan ‘Future35: Our Strategy to 2035’ places importance upon the Southwest Pacific, stating that the region is to be our ‘primary focus’.[1] Despite the desire to prioritise this region as one of our key outputs, the reality of international politics has had the inevitable effect of constantly refocussing the NZDF’s main effort elsewhere. In recent times Afghanistan and Iraq have forced us to re-orientate our training and operational outputs to that of the counter-insurgency and building partner capacity operations in the Middle East, far removed from the jungle and littoral Tactics, Techniques and Procedures needed for the Southwest Pacific. As a small military, we do not have the luxury of strategic reserves and organisational depth, and the commitments and operations we undertake in the likes of

Afghanistan and Iraq inevitably draw our training, focus and efforts away from our geographical backyard and place it in an altogether different theatre and context. While we are still able to respond to crises and emergencies in the region, as Operation Pacific Relief has demonstrated recently in Fiji, this is a response and a reaction from a military force heavily committed to Middle Eastern operations, in both mind-set and training.

Strategically the Southwest Pacific has continued to evolve, and new influences can be seen emerging in the region since the last Defence White Paper in 2010, with the American ‘Pacific Pivot’ well publicised in 2014 and China actively furthering their own nation’s profile (and, one can surmise, their own interests) in the area, with ongoing civic projects and military training and equipment projects easily visible in the likes of Tonga and Fiji. New Zealand’s Mutual Assistance Programme has continued over this period and, while allowing enduring and sustainable relationships to be built and value added to the partnered Pacific nations, this is a low-profile, economy of effort undertaking, easily eclipsed by the far more visible equipment/infrastructure projects, training teams and collective training provides.

As a small land force composed of a single Brigade structured around deploying either one or two combined arms Task Groups, it is inevitable that our Army’s focus will continue to be directed towards the current operations and missions we are committed to – this is the price of agility, where we must constantly prepare and train for the most likely operational profiles and missions without being able to specialise in a specific AO or task. What the current and historical situation demonstrates is clear, though. Unless we plan and resource our intent to meet our strategic focus, we will continue to be fixated and preoccupied by current operational commitments, reducing our ability to provide what our F35 strategy requires through “long-term commitment and cultural understanding”.[2] We need to be aware that our ability to influence the region and contribute to a “secure, peaceful and stable”[3] Southwest Pacific may become increasingly side-lined or marginalised by competing influences in the region, many from states and actors that have far greater monetary and military resources to draw upon than New Zealand does. However, our cultural understanding, close historical links and military professionalism provides us with an opportunity to develop partner capacity in the region – but we have to plan and resource such an undertaking as part of a deliberate strategy, translating ends into ways and means, if we want to remain a valued and influential – if not preeminent – military partner within the Southwest Pacific states.

Force Generation and Reserve Force Outputs

The Regular Force (RF) is already stretched by current operational commitments and is challenged to generate the combined arms Task Groups on a regular basis. While able to meet existing outputs and still achieve contingency deployments, as Operation Pacific Relief demonstrated this year, there is very limited additional capacity within the Brigade to focus or prioritise additional efforts on Southwest Pacific capacity building and partnering. The Brigade’s existing capacity is expended on existing operations and contingencies; an additional capacity building line of operation around would be inadvisable if not impossible. While restructuring, re-tasking or simply absorbing additional responsibilities is possible, a better option for enabling sustained, directed and enduring capacity building in the Southwest Pacific resides with the Reserve Force.

The Reserve Force is currently structured as a ‘second line’ stand-by force, replicating the capabilities of the Regular Force units where-ever possible, aiming to provide depth to New Zealand’s military capabilities. Defence Force Order 24/2007 states that the role of the Reserves is to:

“…augment the RF and provide a force generation capacity for NZDF operations. It provides a first response capability in regional civil emergencies, and forms an important permanent connection between the NZDF and New Zealand society.”[4] The Reserves do not have a separate mission or output, but rather are expected “to integrate with Regular Forces without difficulty”.[5] The Chief of Army’s Directive in 2011/2012 further refined this approach for Army Reserves, directing that “Reserve Forces are to be integrated, where appropriate, into RF units”.[6] Regular and Reserve Units infantry were aligned, with the expectation that training resources would be synchronised and training opportunities realised while 16 Field Regiment, 2 CSSB and 2 Engineer Regiment were directed to “fully integrate” their regimental Reservists.[7]

The reality of Reserve Force integration is less than ideal five years on from this Directive. While Reserve personnel, soldiers especially, turn up to training opportunities with admirable enthusiasm and commendable commitment, the lack of time that can be spent in any training exercise is an insurmountable barrier to creating effective interoperability and achieving – let alone sustaining – basic collective standards.

This was observed throughout 2014, where Task Group Black (based on QAMR) became 1 (NZ) Brigade’s contingency (and therefore exercised) Task Group, and attempted to draw as much Reserve involvement and participation into the Brigade Task Group exercises as possible. Some success was achieved, with Waikato Mounted Rifles participating in Exercise Alam Halfa 14 in May and 3/6 RNZIR task elements in Exercise Kiwi Koru 14 in November. Attempts to integrate Reserve Force staff officers into the Task Group headquarters proved a mixed experience. Four Reserve officers volunteered to work with the HQ, but only one officer actually showed up during the exercises. The task elements were more successful, but the inability to spend any length of time conducting build-up training or upskilling the soldiers and sections drastically limited the skill level they were at for the exercise. Despite the enthusiasm and passion the Reserve soldiers displayed, they were unable to be actively integrated into either Alam Halfa or Kiwi Koru and ended up conducting parallel scenarios within the exercise, carefully desynchronised from the main activity but structured so as to provide some training value without defeating or disrupting the overall scheme of manoeuvre.[8] Instead of adding a capability brick to the Task Group the presence of Reserves ended up taking staff time away from command and control of the Task Group within the scenario as specific training and scenarios were run for the attachments. This cannot be seen as anything other than the brutal reality of what training limitations impose – no matter how enthusiastic, keen or passionate a soldier may be, it is impossible for Reserve units to generate task elements that can be easily or effectively integrated into a Regular Force unit without the time and opportunity to train collectively as part of a substantial build-up and integration period.

If training time and resources were set aside for the Reserves, such as a pre-deployment period, there is no doubt that they can reach an Operational Level of Capability – reservist participation in Solomon Islands and Timor Leste is testament this. The biggest constraint to having the Reserves “augment the RF and provide a force generation capacity for NZDF operations” is currently their limited numbers and limited task elements they can reliably form for any activity. While the Regular Forces struggle to form a full-strength Task Group, Reserve forces are in an even worse situation, with their Battalion structures existing in name only and often parading in section or platoon strength rather than the nomenclature that would indicate a company or battalion. This revolves around a causal effect – without sufficient training opportunities it is hard to attract, grow and sustain an effective force structure, but with an effective force structure it is hard to realise collective training opportunities. Resourcing and funding limitations impact on the Reserves as much as it impacts on the Regular Force, further constraining training but manifesting itself in a more obvious and tangible manner – reduced attendance and limited strength.

For all these constraints, the Reserves continue to provide an invaluable and essential Defence output, both providing personnel to fill operational vacancies, providing a domestic “first response capability in regional civil emergencies” and they form “an important connection between the NZDF and New Zealand society”. [9]  However, the ability for the Reserve personnel and Reserve units to actively contribute to current NZDF operational outputs overseas in a meaningful way is limited, and opportunity exists to reinforce the role and strengths of our Reserves while contributing to an operational output 1 (NZ) Brigade units are unable to properly resource – capacity building in the Southwest Pacific.


Orientating Reserves to a Role-Regional Capacity Building

While Regular Force units in 1 (NZ) Brigade continue to train for and deploy on global operations and contingency tasks through the manning of the HADR, Light and Combined Arms Task Group constructs, a capability gap exists through the lack of a task-organised force committed (with at least a standing priority, if not as an ongoing main effort) for regional capacity building.

During a break in work, soldiers from 2 Engineer Regiment play games with children in the Village of Silana, on the north-eastern coast of Viti Levu, Fiji.

Is there an opportunity to orientate the Reserves to fill this gap, acting as lead units for regular, sustained and targeted capacity building in the Southwest Pacific? While substantial obstacles and resource constraints would need to be resolved, and transformational change would need to take place in how we conceive of, generate and deploy our Reserve elements, it is assessed that they would be an ideal organisation with which to task with a regional capacity building mission. Furthermore, looking at the wider F35 strategy and operational environment, such an undertaking could provide substantial benefits well beyond those first-order effects of meeting specific defence outputs.

Structures, doctrine and processes already exist for the NZDF to conduct partner capacity building in the Pacific through the Mutual Assistance Programme (MAP).[10] This programme is mainly used to provide opportunities for partnered Pacific countries to attend NZDF courses and participate in NZDF training. It also provides a less frequently used opportunity for Mutual Assistance Training Teams (MATTs) to be scoped, raised and deployed to provide training outputs within a host nation.[11] These have, in recent years, been small and isolated deployments of small numbers of trainers whose efforts are specifically targeted to provide key outputs (training and mentoring female Officer Cadets in Papua New Guinea, for example). MATTs provide collective training outputs whereas course attendance in NZ through the MAP scheme provides individual training outputs. A combination of both collective and individual training are essential to ensure partner capacity objectives are met as part of a long-term and sustainable capacity building programme, and neglecting collective training outputs provided by MATTs severely reduces the profile and awareness a host nation may have towards the NZDF’s support. The NZ Army is already progressing back into the MATT concept, with Training Teams being actively scoped for Fiji and Tonga from within 1 (NZ) Brigade units in the near future.

One of the key principles we should look to follow in any capacity building lines of operation in the Pacific is to maintain a long-term focus. More harm than good can come from over-promising and under-delivering, and habitual relationship need to be built and sustained to both gain the trust and buy-in of the training audience and to allow training to be appropriately designed and targeted. The problem with 1 (NZ) Brigade units contributing to Southwest Pacific MATTs is that they are inevitably treated as an economy of effort undertaking, and personnel cannot be specialised or gain specific expertise in any one area. I know this to be the case in at least one situation, as I am currently anticipating the deployment a SNCO from my Company to a Tongan MATT, which will in the short term impact on the sub-units ability to meet our Brigade outputs (the High Readiness Company role and possible force elements for a Task Group). While this isn’t a massive consideration at the force generation level, it does underline how Regular Force units are already committed to existing outputs, and our attention and training remains largely directed towards those ends. Further, re-tasking a soldier or officer from a Brigade ‘line’ unit prevents specialisation. The SNCO who is likely to deploy is extremely capable and competent as an infantry trainer, and will no doubt do an exemplary job. He has previously deployed as a trainer to the Afghanistan National Army Officer Academy, and could in future be looking at a deployment as a trainer on Task Group Taji. Such varied training roles will increase his knowledge and expertise as a generalist trainer, but work against establishing ongoing relationships and regionally-specific knowledge in the EC2 / Southwest Pacific environment. A combination of the regular posting cycles and a focus on resourcing EC4 operations and outputs will always mean that the Southwest Pacific capacity building tasks remain a lower priority task for the RF units, and that the same people will never be able to be committed to the same region to build up the local knowledge and relationships that are ideal if regional capacity building is o be part of our long-term campaign plan.

A long-term and sustained focus on relationships and enduring capacity building would be better resourced by a part-time Reserve headquarters dedicated to a region than by a full-time Regular unit staff whose attention and efforts are continually changing and shifting during the different training phases in the Brigade. If young soldiers and officers began a Reserve career within a unit that has habitual support to a Pacific military, they will be able to absorb collective lessons and observations from their predecessors and superiors before they are in a position to carry on the capacity building mission first-hand. The staff of their headquarters would be able to plan and forecast with first-hand knowledge of the host-nations situation and, over time, relationships would develop – the sub-unit and unit command teams of the Reserve units would reach their positions having established enduring relationships within their region, and likewise the partnered nation would have ongoing points of contact and a strong familiarity – if not friendship – with their key commanders in the Reserve Units, given systemic maturity. The benefits a culturally aware, socially networked regional force would provide the NZDF and NZ Government in the region that is our “primary focus” should not be overlooked, providing enhanced situational awareness of the country within the Defence Force and, in extremis, providing a pool of servicemen and women experienced and knowledgeable in specific countries should the NZDF have to deploy forces in response to a regional crises or emergency.


Generating a Regional Capacity Building Capability with the Reserves

The outcome and results of our F35 strategy will not be fully realised for just under two decades, and the reorientation of the Reserves described above would require generational change and substantial, sustained investment to achieve. Small and discrete steps could be taken towards orientating and investing our Reserve Forces in the regional capacity building role in the two to three year timeframe, given sufficient finances and strategic direction to raise and deploy ongoing MATTs.

Reserve Battalions are well placed in the Army’s organisational structure part of Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). This allows a single headquarters – TRADOC – to mitigate the Reserves’ inherent individual and collective skill gaps through alignment and integration within TRADOC’s schools.

If one of the biggest obstacles towards dedicating Reserve Forces to a regional capacity building role is their lack of specialised knowledge and ability to provide specialist training, then the generation of those skill-sets would need to come from courses run and sponsored by TRADOC schools. For example, a 3/6 RNZIR MATT targeting reconnaissance patrolling could have their allocated MATT of trainers and a support section attend portions of TRADOC’s R&S Command Course, or 1RNZIR’s dismounted patrol procedures course (which TRADOC sponsors), in the same way we integrate Reserves onto Tac School’s Staff and Tactics Courses – some Reservists assist as instructors while others attend as students, all leveraging off the Regular Force expertise and the training opportunities that are already in place. The skills and the course material can be appropriated by the Reserve participants to enable ongoing training prior to any deployment.

Such a scenario is possible given sufficient planning and funding. Success breeds success, but clear and enduring direction would have to be given early commit Reserves to the role. Simply inviting or calling for nominations to a Regular Force MATT within our normal force-generation time-frame a few months out would be unable to generate the culture, mind-set or expectation that would enable a critical mass in reservist participation to be achieved. While MATTs may require initial Regular / Reserve integration, having the Reserves generate and own the concept is essential. Providing the intent and responsibility for a series of MATTs would both empower and enable Reserve commanders and headquarters to link all of their functions to a common purpose, with ab initio training, leadership courses and routine training all directly contributing to the MATT output. Key to this is Reserve units owning the capacity building role, initially at the tactical level in command of a MATT so that they are more than just symbolic attachments, but full participants and stakeholders in the concept. Reserve units should assume, as soon as possible after the first iteration, responsibility for scoping, designing and raising future MATTs. The longer Regular Force personnel and TRADOC hold onto the design and command of any regional capacity building line of operation, the more it will be treated as a competing effort rather than a sole focus or main effort and the harder to will be to achieve the planning timeframes needed for Reserve involvement. Further, the sooner Reserve units could take over planning responsibilities the better they will be to position themselves to raise and train MATT force elements well in advance through their own personnel, unit exercises and internal resources.

The nature of Reservist service and the competing influences in their careers and lives needs to be factored in, as well. Allowing Reservist headquarters – and therefore individual Reservists – the ability to plan ahead and anticipate MATTs at least twelve months out provides both the incentive to prioritise participation and the information to anticipate and accommodate training commitments. It also directs and empowers the training system to provide our Reservists with applicable, relevant training which they can then use to directly contribute to NZDF outputs in turn, consolidates the purpose, role and intent of our Reserve forces at the lowest level.

If an enduring mission of this nature was allocated to the Reserve forces it would provide a clear purpose and task to those units, and could be the tipping point we need to rejuvenate, re-energise and empower the Reserve forces in both structure, purpose and manning. Being able to provide the Reserve Forces the strategic direction, financial resources and planning time would allow ongoing momentum to build in their favour. If this could be profiled through Defence Communications Group and harnessed by recruiting to attract a new cohort of Reservists, expectations and motivation could start to sustain the mind-set, commitment and desire needed to standardise MATT outputs as part of an annual commitment expected of and undertaken by Reserves.

Providing the Reserve Forces with ongoing and reliable opportunities to deploy in meaningful and valuable roles for the NZDF would come at a cost. Overseas activities are not cheap and require substantial amounts of money and support, from the up-front and immediate costs of allowances, movement, transport and logistics through to the time spent in preparation, pre-deployment training and stand-down. In the current system in which we align NZDF outputs that are ‘purchased’ by the Government, investing in capacity building in the Southwest Pacific should not be an impossible area to invest in, either at the expense of other Defence resources or as part of a newly funded operational stream.



If we are serious about the Southwest Pacific and employing the NZ Army as part of our nation’s ‘Force for Good’, then the Reserves – currently under-resourced but perfectly capable of meeting their objectives  given sufficient investment, resources and policy/direction – could become a pivotal and invaluable part of our long-term, enduring regional defence strategy.

While the Reserve forces are not currently positioned, tasked or resourced to actively contribute to NZDF outputs in the same way Regular Force 1 (NZ) Brigade units do, the Reserve units still possess the most important and valuable resource we need in the NZ Army – motivated, committed and dedicated soldiers and leaders. There is a clear capability gap in providing enduring, sustainable capacity building military effects with partner militaries in the Southwest Pacific, and the Reserve units could be a perfect organisational and output-based fit for this requirement. Our Regular Force units under 1 (NZ) Brigade already provide the NZ Army’s contingency forces for any regional and global response, and it seems logical to resource and align our Reserve Forces, currently tasked with reinforcing the Regular Forces, with a regional focus. This provides two clear but mutually supporting branches within the NZ Army – a Regular Force trained, equipped and postured for deploying on contingency operations and a Reserve Force trained, equipped and postured for sustaining ongoing regional commitments.

[1] “We will need to be aware of what is happening in the Southwest Pacific and be able to respond effectively and appropriately, and with little warning. Some of our neighbours may need our help to develop their capacity to respond to natural disasters and security issues. This will require long-term commitment and cultural understanding.” NZDF Future35: Our Strategy to 2035, p3, sourced from the Defence White Paper 2010.
[2] NZDF Future35: Our Strategy to 2035, p3.
[3] NZDF Future35: Our Strategy to 2035, p3.
[4] Defence Force Order 24/2007, Defence Strategic Intent for the Reserves, para 9.
[5] Defence Force Order 24/2007, Defence Strategic Intent for the Reserves, para 16.
[6] NZ Army, Chief of Army Command Directive 2011/2012, para 5(a).
[7] NZ Army, Chief of Army Command Directive 2011/2012, para 5(c) – (f).
[8] TG Black Minute 3370, Chief of Staff’s PAR for TG Black on Ex Kiwi Koru 14 dated 01 Dec 14.
[9] Defence Force Order 24/2007, Defence Strategic Intent for the Reserves, para 9.
[10] NZDF, DFO 67 Defence Force Orders for the Mutual Assistance Programme dated 08 May 07.
[11] NZDF, DFO 67 Chapter 6 Mutual Assistance Training Teams.