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MEDALS NEWS

16 January 2002

Linton NZBATT4 Parade and Medal Presentation

Hon Mark Burton

In May last year, I addressed many of you at Ohakea, as you prepared to depart for East Timor.

Yours was a special deployment in many ways. 62 personnel were drawn from the Territorial Force and almost 200 personnel were returning to East Timor for a second time.

This experience was to prove invaluable.

The challenges that the 4th Battalion Group faced were considerable. For a start, your area of operations was enormous – some 1100 square kilometres.

There was also the challenge of moulding together elements from a number of countries into a cohesive unit.

As well as 3 Squadron and a New Zealand Surgical Team, NZBATT4 worked with an Australian Beach landing team, a Pakistani Signals detachments, and soldiers from Fiji, Ireland, Nepal and Singapore.

This combat troop contribution to a peacekeeping operation was a first for Singapore and built on the long association between the New Zealand and Singapore Armed Forces.

NZBATT4 continued the work done by previous New Zealand battalions to nullify the destabilising influence of hostile militia operations.

You made a huge difference to the East Timorese who lived in your area of operations. You provided a stable environment for the conduct of the first ever free elections in East Timor, and managed the increased return of refugees in the weeks and months that followed.
All of you who have returned from East Timor, and who we are belatedly welcoming home officially today, can hold your heads high.

I want to make particular mention of Private Boyd Atkins, one of your colleagues from Linton, who served with NZBATT3. We are recognising his tragic death with the unveiling of his name on the Linton memorial wall this afternoon. I know his loss is felt by all of us here today.

And I want to express the Government's special appreciation for the personal sacrifices made by all the families of those who have served in East Timor.

Having your sons, husbands, wives and daughters, mums and dads away from home, in a dangerous, remote and unpredictable environment, is never an easy thing to cope with. Thank you, all of you.

You can have great pride in the vital role that your loved ones have played in protecting the democratic rights of a people who have suffered so much in their struggle towards nationhood.

I am also pleased to announce that today, Prime Minister Helen Clark will be informing the Australian Prime Minister john Howard that New Zealand will accept the INTERFET medal. It is estimated that 900 New Zealanders will be eligible to accept and wear this medal, and a significant number of those personnel are here today. I believe it is a fitting recognition of the service of individual New Zealanders in what was a hazardous and difficult environment.

I have also been advised that the Queen has approved the acceptance and wearing of the following medals for qualifying personnel:
· The NATO medal for service with the Stabilisation Force in Bosnia (SFOR);
· The United Nations medal for service with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance Afghanistan 1989-1991 (UNOCHA);
· The United Nations medal for service with the United Nations Special Commission based in Iraq (UNSCOM);
· And the United Nations Medal for service in the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC).

Further details about these medals will be advised soon through normal command channels.

For members of NZBATT4, on demobilisation, I hope this parade, awarding of medals, and the demobilisation function, will serve to properly acknowledge your service. You now return to your home units to regenerate your conventional skills and the normal duties associated with soldiering.

You have all served your country with honour and distinction – and every one of you receiving the East Timor medal that we are awarding today, is richly deserving of that recognition.

The government and the people of New Zealand are immensely pleased, proud and grateful for the work you have all done.

Thank you all.

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