An Air Force sergeant from Tauranga is currently overseeing communications in the Solomon Islands as part of the Air Force’s Regional Assistance Mission.
Robyn Stewart has been in the Air Force for 13 years and is currently half way through an eight month deployment to the Solomons.
Air Force Sergeant Robyn Stewart is currently deployed in the Solomon Islands.
“It will be my longest deployment. I’ve previously deployed to Afghanistan for six months.”
Her role on deployment is overseeing all the communication for the Kiwi contingent.
“I’m in charge of the comms here, the computers, the radios, any NZ phone lines, NZ provided internet. All the systems are pretty stable, but there’s still a steady amount of work to do here supporting the platoon.”
It also involves some work with the Australian personnel on camp.
“We do work a little bit with the ADF comms cell. They have their own systems, but we do some combined training on each other’s systems. The Aussies are fine to get on with and we hang out with them a bit.”
Robyn says it can be hard at times working just in camp and not getting out as much as some of the other personnel.
“I did get out on a RSIPF boat patrol for a week, where I was helping to test equipment and work with their comms. It was great to get out and travel down the coast.”
This is Robyn’s second deployment to the Solomons; she has also previously deployed to Timor-Leste, Bougainville and also twice to Afghanistan.
She is used to being the only Air Force person in an Army contingent.
“I’ve done it a few times now. It’s pretty good. They do have a different approach. The Army guys are really good to me, I get treated the exact same, they don’t notice I’m Air Force.”
She says not having a partner or children makes the eight month deployments a lot easier.
The 45 personnel from 2nd/1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (2/1 RNZIR) and supporting units work alongside Australian Defence Force (ADF), Papua New Guinea and Tongan military personnel as part of RAMSI’s military contingent.
The mission in the Solomon Islands has changed significantly since the Defence Force first assisted in 2003. There has been a reducing requirement in recent years for the military to play a direct role in maintaining law and order.
A New Zealand interagency group is currently considering transition in concert with Australia and the Solomons, and the aim is for the military to withdraw during 2013.