The strong ties of familiarity that link the armed forces of Papua New Guinea, Australia and the United Kingdom are being strengthened further during Exercise Puk Puk 2022.
Engineers from the PNGDF, Australian Army and British Army are working together to increase bonds, build wantok and develop trade skills whilst improving existing infrastructure at the Goldie River Training Depot (GRTD) near Port Moresby.
Lieutenant Desmond Reuben from the PNGDF says site inductions dominated day one of major works.
“We are here for the site induction, being inducted by the foreman of Milne Bay troop,” Lieutenant Reuben said.
“Most of the works that are going to be happening here at the Field Engineer Wing is the construction of an additional classroom and an inert demolition training facility.”
Over 100 soldiers from the PNGDF, Australian and British Armies are living and working together at GRTD to deliver Ex Puk Puk 2022.
Lieutenant Reuben says all the troops have names of historic significance and include members from the PNGDF, ADF and British Army in them.
“I have broken up my troops, so they are working together in partnership,” he said.
“It’s good, they can learn more about the command and control of the ADF and UK Army.”
Australian Army Captain Lara Perkovic from 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment says there is construction activity taking place at two main locations on GRTD.
“Our main scope of work item is a classroom at Field Engineer Wing, with the second main scope of work item being a Guard Haus refurbishment,” Captain Perkovic said.
“Our main focus on this exercise is the people-to-people relationships and building our wantok with the PNGDF and British Army.”
The PNGDF have been amazing, especially those at Goldie River Training Depot, the Koiari community, members from Directorate of Engineers and the Engineer Battalion themselves.”
Lieutenant Hannah Garside from the UK 26 Engineer Regiment is glad Ex Puk Puk has begun, after many weeks of preparation.
“I think everyone is excited to get stuck in and practice their trade because being from a UK armoured unit we don’t get to practice our construction trade as much as we’d like,” Lieutenant Garside said.
“We hope to demonstrate our support for the ADF and PNGDF and to also just build relationships and hope that potentially we can continue our contribution to Puk Puk for future years.”
The Townsville based 3rd Brigade has strong ties to the PNGDF that are regularly reinforced through training, capability and people-to-people engagements as part of Australia’s Defence Cooperation Program.
Captain Perkovic is already familiar with some members of the PNG workforce.
“I have been really fortunate to go through training with a lot of PNGDF members and I have met a lot of them here as well that I consider Wantok,” she said.
One of those sappers she is already familiar with, is Lieutenant Reuben who completed both PNGDF and ADF Engineer Regimental Officers Basic Course.
“I have worked with the ADF before, including during Exercise Puk Puk in 2017. “We worked together, did the ROBC together, the ROBC helped my skills and knowledge.”
Exercise Puk Puk has been an enduring commitment to PNG since the early 2000s.