By CourtesyNovember 19, 2019
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- More than 40 Royal New Zealand Army Soldiers traveled to Hawaii Oct. 30, 2019 to conduct a two-week combined live fire exercise, with the 25th Infantry Division, known as Lightning Whaitiri.
"'Whaitiri' is the traditional Maori word for 'thunder,' which is what our artillery Soldiers do out in the field; they bring the thunder," said 1st Sgt. Jimmy Nena, Bravo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment (3-7 FA), 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Inf. Div., first sergeant and Micronesia native.
New Zealand Soldiers assigned to 163 Battery, 16th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery integrated with Nena and his troops to conduct marksmanship ranges, military occupation drills and a live fire exercise in order to enhance multi-national interoperability within "Tropic Lightning" Division Artillery.
Lt. Callum Streeter, a gun position officer with 163 Battery, New Zealand Army, said that the event has increased partnership and productivity between the units over the past few years.
Streeter participated in the same exercise in 2017, but said this year's integration of his unit into the operation was the best it's ever been.
In addition to the gunnery training, the two nations' units conducted physical readiness training throughout the jungle terrain of Lightning Academy, 25th Inf. Div.
Lightning Academy serves as the U.S. Army's premier Pacific training venue for local, regional, and global partners to increase specialty skills focused on readiness and lethality.
"It's been an eye-opening experience for myself and my Soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Michael Delacruz, gunnery sergeant assigned to Bravo Battery, 3-7 FA and Covina, California native. "Our countries cultures are quite different, but at the end of the day, we are working toward the same mission, working together to accomplish the same goal."
"It's all about defending our freedom," he said.