Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea
High Commission address: Godwit Road, Waigani NCD, Port Moresby - Telephone: 325 9333 - Fax: 325 9183

1 June 2011

For immediate release

PNGDF deploys troops to Solomon Islands

Chief of Staff of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF), Caption Ur Tom, today farewelled soldiers from the 1st Battalion, the Royal Pacific Island Regiment, as they deployed to the Solomon Islands.

Captain Tom spoke on behalf of the PNGDF Commander, Brigadier General Francis Agwi, who was unable to attend the farewell that was conducted at the international terminal of Jackson's Airport this morning. He told the soldiers to be good ambassadors for PNG and to carry out their mission well.

The 'Kumul Force XIII', as it is known, is the thirteenth PNG contingent to be deployed to Honiara to support the Australian led Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). PNG has been providing support to RAMSI, along with fifteen regional partner nations since 2003.

Deputy Head of Australian Defence Staff, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Luscombe, who was also at the ceremony to farewell the troops, said the PNGDF’s contribution to regional security through RAMSI has been a cornerstone of operational cooperation between the two forces and will provide a level of practical experience for the PNGDF to draw-on as it moves towards taking up United Nations peacekeeping.

The soldiers departed on a Royal Australian Air Force C130 Hercules aircraft for Sydney, where they will undergo a month of intensive training at Holsworthy Barracks with the Australian Army’s 5th Brigade. Following specialist training, the contingent will be deployed to Honiara for a three month tour of duty starting in early July.

The contingent will be led by Lieutenant Charles Vaira who was commissioned into the PNGDF in 2006. As a young infantry officer in the PNGDF the command of a Kumul Force platoon is seen as a great privilege and an achievement that Lieutenant Vaira and his family are very proud of.

Lieutenant Vaira will be assisted in his task by his platoon sergeant, Sergeant Levi Budo who is from the Morobe Province. Sergeant Budo has over 22 years of service with the PNGDF and his wealth of operational experience from Bougainville and previous RAMSI missions will prove essential to supporting his commander and achieving the PNGDF mission in the Solomon Islands.

The youngest member of the contingent is Private Mark Kamane who comes from Chimbu Province. Private Kamane was only enlisted into the PNGDF in 2009 and this will be his very first departure overseas. Private Kamane said he was very excited about travelling to Australia and the Solomon Islands and looked forward to working with the Australian Defence Force and the challenges ahead in the Solomon Islands.