Defence Minister Peeni Henare will visit NZ Defence Force personnel in the Middle East during his first international tour since Covid-19 travel restrictions were eased.
He says it's an opportunity to pay tribute to those staff who have been unable to return home over the past three years.
"Kō atu i te whā tekau tonu i tēnei wā ko etahi he hoia kei te mura o te ahi, ko ētahi he āpiha, ko etahi atu he tangata kei muri rā e mahi ana. Engari ko te mea nui nei ko aua tūranga he huarahi pai mō ngā hōia kei konei e hiahia ana kia piki ake i roto i tā rātou tūranga mahi. Nā reira kia tutataki ki te hunga kei tāwāhi he mea tika kia mahi atu i tērā mahi engari kia hoki mai anō kia tirohia mehemea ka whai wahanga anō ngā hōia o te kainga nei ki ngā tūranga mahi tāwāhi.
(There are more than 40 currently. Some are soldiers in the field, some are officers, and others are personnel working behind the scenes but the most important thing is that those positions provide opportunities for soldiers here who want to move up in their positions, so meeting with those who are overseas is entirely appropriate but also coming back and seeing if the soldiers here can be assigned to positions overseas.)
Henare preps for his Middle East trip.
Henare will meet personnel deployed in operations in Jordan and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. He will also meet his counterparts in those countries as well as United Arab Emirates where he hopes to exchange perspectives on regional and global security issues.
He will also use the visit to revisit historic links with the region and Māori dating back to World War II.
"Te marama e tū mai nei ka waru tekau tau te pakanga ki roto o El Alamein, nā reira ko ngā hononga kei waenganui i a tāua te Māori me ngā hunga o tāua wāhi rā kāore e kore kei reira tonu aua hononga. Nō reira tērā pea ki roto i āku huihuinga ki ngā rangatira ki reira ka kōrero au mo te āhua o te rōpū rua tekau ma waru me ngā mahi i oti i a rātou."
(Next month will be the 80th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein and the connections Māori have with the people there are no doubt still there, so in my meetings with the leaders there, I will talk about the 28th Māori Battalion and their great deeds.)
Despite the unrest and threats of war in parts of the world, the Defence Force's role has become more focused on training, rebuilding and helping victims of war to rebuild their lives. Henare says that will still be the focus into the future.
"Kua roa rawa a Aotearoa e tautoko atu ana i ātahi atu whenua kia tiakina ngā tāngata ki tera wāhi hei tautoko ake i te noho haumaru a ngā iwi ki roto i taua wāhi rā. Nō reira ko te hiahia kia haere atu ki reira kia tūtataki ki a tātou tāngata a tatou hoia no te Ope Katua kei reira e mahi i tenei wā tonu kia kite mārika he aha a ratou mahi. Tā te mea he māmā noa iho ki te pānui i te pepa me te rīpoata engari ko te hiahia kia tutaki i a ratou hoia a kanohi nei."
(Aotearoa has long supported peacekeeping operations in other countries, to ensure the safety of the people, so I hope to go over there and meet our personnel, our defence troops deployed over there currently, and to see their operations because while reading a report might be easier, I'd rather meet our soldiers face-to-face.)
Henare's visit to the Middle East will conclude on October 12.
-Additional reporting by James Perry