Defence Contribution to Bosnia Comes to a Close for NZ

A fifteen year contribution of New Zealand Defence Force personnel to Bosnia has come to an end after a ceremony held in Sarajevo on Friday 29 June.

The ceremony, hosted by the Commander of the European Union Forces (EUFOR) Rear Admiral Hans-Jochen Witthauer, included the lowering of the New Zealand flag and medal presentations to Major Michael Brown, Captain Russel Skeet and Captain Philip Wood who were the final Kiwi staff officers to serve in Bosnia.

Speaking at the flag lowering ceremony on Friday, Rear Admiral Witthauer said; “The New Zealand association with Bosnia-Herzegovina has been a long and rewarding one for EUFOR and the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina on one hand and on the other hand for the New Zealand Defence Force.”

Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Rear Admiral Jack Steer says that New Zealand soldiers are successful in their missions all over the world because they are professional and have empathy for the local people. The contributions made by the Kiwis will always be remembered by the Bosnian people and the multi national forces.

“New Zealand Defence Force military personnel are seen as highly competent with a professional yet low-key demeanor that works very well, no matter where they are serving. We know that it worked particularly well in Bosnia, where the Kiwis were able to build trust amongst the locals and bring together the Croat and Muslim Brigade Commanders to initiate joint patrols after the war.”

“Almost 1000 New Zealand defence force personnel have contributed materially to the cessation of hostilities and the stabilisation of the environment in Bosnia to the point where people can now begin to lead normal lives, and I am very proud of their efforts.”

New Zealand’s early contribution to the troubled region focused on peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts. The principal task when the troops of Kiwi Company first arrived in 1994 was to monitor compliance of the peace agreements reached between the warring factions, and improve the freedom of movement and quality of life for people in its area of responsibility.

Creating medical clinics, developing a mine awareness programme, rebuilding damaged schools, restoring utilities such as electricity and water and delivering aid supplies to refugees were all part of the efforts of New Zealand soldiers during 1994 and 1995.

Military observers, staff officers and personnel for liaison and observation teams made up New Zealand’s contribution from 1996 through to 2007, where the focus became assisting at the Multinational Task Force Headquarters and then HQ EUFOR in Banja Luka, as well as living in the community and ‘taking the pulse’ of the local people in the later years.
Source: New Zealand Defence Force Press Office

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