First 100 soldiers leave for Aust

The first 100 PNG Defence Force soldiers and personnel left PNG shores this morning for Australia to assist in bushfire response and recovery tasks.

Prime Minister James Marape farewelled the troops along with Government and Australian High Commission officials.

The soldiers from the Engineering Battalion of the 1st Royal Pacific Island Regiment (1PIR) and a small liaison and support staff make up the 17th Kumul Force.

They will be deployed for three months to carry out routine clearance tasks of roads and bridges blocked by fallen trees so firefighters could get to affected areas in rural communities.

“The Australian government has always been there for us whether it be in good or bad times; therefore, in reciprocal; we show by lending our hands to support them today,” said Marape.

PNG is committing 1,000 personnel which include the National Fire Service and National Volunteer Service.

The 17th Kumul Force is the second largest PNG military group to leave PNG shores on an overseas mission.

In 1980, prior to Vanuatu’s independence, PNG sent 400 troops to what was then New Hebrides during a secessionist movement by indigenous people against the French-UK Colonial Government.

And in 2003, PNG sent 80 troops to join the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands known as RAMSI.

Cedric Patjole