Army staff 's return slowed by ants

Families reunited in time for Christmas

Last updated 12:00 21/12/2012
Army returns

FAMILY REUNION: Corporal Melissa Daley with, from left, Hinemaia Daley, 4, and Shilah Daley, 3, and Neihana Brown-Ratahi.

Army returns
BACK BEFORE CHRISTMAS: Corporal Melissa Daley, one of 20 army personnel to return from East Timor to Ohakea Air Force Base yesterday evening, waves to her daughters as she waits to go through Customs

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Ants may have held them up, but the last major group of New Zealand military personnel are back from East Timor.

Twenty personnel returned to Ohakea yesterday after spending two months in East Timor taking care of "theatre extraction".

The extraction was originally planned to take up to three months, but was completed ahead of schedule.

Family and friends had to wait a little longer than expected though as equipment had to be fumigated after it came off the plane because of a small infestation of ants.

Hannah Orlowski said it was her husband Steve's second deployment to Timor, but their children had not really understood what had happened.

"They think he's been up there in a plane the whole time."

Neihana Brown-Ratahi's partner was on her first deployment to East Timor, but he said the children had been "sweet as" the whole time. His partner, Corporal Melissa Daley, said she was happy to see her family again.

Major Aaron Couchman, the officer in charge of the extraction team, said they had been taking care of documents and equipment belonging to the New Zealand Defence Force.

"It is the conclusion of the six-year deployment in Timor."

Some could be brought back, but some of the technology was too outdated to bring back.

"In six years things move on very quickly."

The team were also required to find things to gift to the East Timor military.

Major Couchman said they were able to give them two 4x4 trucks.

Getting the job finished quickly was a pleasant surprise, he said.

"It's good to get people home for Christmas."

Major General Dave Gawn said the extraction team were "the unsung heroes" in military operations.

"They go in after an operation is completed and close everything down.

"They're a critical part of the completion of the deployment, and they work pretty hard.

"They have to do things quickly - because we want them out as soon as possible - but they have to be very thorough."

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- The Manawatu Standard

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