New Zealand Embassy Tokyo, Japan
Divers of Japan’s Self-Defense Force Participated in Exercise Hosted by New Zealand Navy
The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN), hosted a multinational mine countermeasures exercise from 17 February to 7 March in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland with the participation of more than 600 personnel from 14 nations including Japan, Australia, the United States, South Korea and China. The RNZN co-hosted this event with the United States Navy as part of the Western Pacific Navies Symposium series of exercises.
RNZN Captain Tony Hayes, Defence Attaché of the New Zealand Embassy Tokyo, visited the Yokosuka base of the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) on 21 April to meet with two of the seven JMSDF divers who participated in the exercise in New Zealand.
The exercise was based on a scenario of an international task force clearing debris and explosives to secure shipping routes for the arrival of aid into a fictional Pacificisland that has been devastated by earthquake and tsunami. And all this while keeping an eye out for a fictitious rebel group trying to disrupt the flow of aid.
The two divers found the exercise extremely useful and professionally rewarding. In addition, Lieutenant Commander Tsurugi Shimokubo, leader of the JMSDF diving team which took part in the exercise, told Captain Hayes that even though some currents in the waters used for the exercise training were quite strong, his team was able to dive safely because of the helpful information provided by the RNZN.
Petty Officer First Class Akira Koyama appreciated the genuine hospitality demonstrated by the RNZN, which ranged from extending a warm welcome at the airport to holding a cultural event at the navy marae to spending time with Japanese divers during off-duty hours. A strong bond was formed between the Japanese and new Zealand divers.
The exercise became a real operation when four left-over mines from New Zealand’s defensive World War II minefield were discovered in the exercise area. Petty Officer Koyama saw two of the four mines right in front of him while operating underwater. Even though the mines did not pose any threat, the RNZN disposed of them at the end of the exercise.
During this exercise, each national diving team was assigned separate areas to survey as part of the overall search area. Lieutenant Commander Shimokubo in his conversation with Captain Hayes expressed his willingness to next time form a team with divers from other nations, especially with RNZN divers who use the sameunderwater vehicle, to further enhance collaboration among divers from the participating nations.
At the Yokosuka base, Captain Hayes made a courtesy call on JMSDF Rear Admiral Hiroshi Oka, commander of JMSDF’s mine warfare force, to express New Zealand Navy’s appreciation for dispatching JMSDF divers to the exercise and requested JMSDF’s participation in future exercises hosted by New Zealand to enhance relations between the two forces.
The April/May 2014 issue of Navy Today carried an article on the exercise (PDF file / Pages 16-19)