Soldiers invade city buildings
120 armed soldiers train in red-zoned buildingsCAROLINE KING
Armed soldiers stormed the former Environment Canterbury office and other red-zoned parts of the city yesterday, leaving some residents baffled.
But there was nothing sinister afoot as the 120 Depot Company personnel, from 2/1 Battalion Royal NZ Infantry Regiment, based at Burnham Military Camp, were actually taking part in a training exercise in modern urban warfare.
Depot Company commanding officer Major Aaron Wright said with war increasingly taking in towns and cities, it was important our soldiers trained accordingly.
"Along with the enemy there will potentially be civilian bystanders, as well as people from other agencies there because they are trying to help. It is important that our soldiers undertake training in varied urban environments to prepare them for deployments both here and overseas.
"The Christchurch earthquake was a good example of our soldiers deploying at short notice into a complicated and potentially dangerous built-up environment," he said.
The exercise, which began at 3am yesterday, ends at midnight tomorrow. It includes training soldiers in patrolling, detaining persons of interest, and close-quarter combat.
Wright said those within the local community directly affected by the exercise had been notified by the New Zealand Army. However, police told The Press they had received at least 20 calls, as of last night, from members of the public worried about what was going on.
Horseshoe Lake Residents' Association chairwoman Janette Hinton said she had also been contacted by several residents who were unaware of why the army were in the area and had been "a bit alarmed".
She said residents felt in this instance notification was not thorough enough.
One Horseshoe Lake Rd resident, Richard Moon, was initially concerned after reading in the public notice that the training would involve blank rounds and pyrotechnics.
He said people in the area had gone through enough already.
But he told The Press last night that he did not hear any disturbance.
Delta Company, also from 2/1 Battalion Royal NZ Infantry Regiment, is also to undertake an exercise in the CBD surrounding Kilmore St next Wednesday.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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