NZDF soldiers celebrate Xmas abroad

By Ripeka Timutimu

While many New Zealanders sit down and enjoy a Christmas lunch with their families, others are spending the day peace-keeping in war-torn countries. Two hundred and twenty New Zealand Defence Force staff will be serving overseas this Christmas, so Te Kāea spoke to three soldiers based in Afghanistan and Iraq this Christmas.

A thousand miles away in Afghanistan, Lieutenant Colonel Oiroa Kaihau is thinking of one thing this Christmas.

Oh, Mum makes a mean Toroi. She also does a mean boil up and things like kina and mussels would be very welcome. Sometimes you know we could also get a mutton bird as well.”

The Ngāti Raukawa man playing a special role in working with the local people on the ground.

“I'm in a satellite camp that's run by the British Army, UK. I've been here for 5 months right up until Christmas day, exactly five months. The camp is actually in Kabul in Afghanistan.”

Kaihau went on to say, “I'm a mentor, I have Afghan colleague who I mentor who has the same rank as myself. He's responsible for coordinating and delivering training to officer cadets on the Afghan National Army.”

There is 100 NZDF personnel currently based in Afghanistan, many of whom are Māori.

“Afghanistan is a special place for New Zealanders, in particular in the period 2002 -2012 when we had a significant contribution to this particular country. We lost a number of people here and it would be appropriate that we remember the service of those people who were here during that period who lost their lives.”

In Iraq there is 13 NZDF personnel currently working, one of them is Lieutenant Sally Reid from Tainui. She says Māori culture has found a place in their work culture.

“I think that we bring NZ and our wairua with us when we perform the haka. We all value our culture.”

Corporal Ricardo Herewini says despite being foreigners, they try and bring a taste of home to their base.

“We got a thing coming up for Waitangi so we're going to try and get everyone in there and put a display on. Chuck a hāngi on. Not certain how the old soil over here might affect the hāngi.”

It's hoped personnel around the world have a safe and Merry Christmas.