Kiwi Military Officer Reflects On Three-Year Service

‘The engagement has increased in all aspects of the defence partnership, where RFMF-NZDF relations can be characterised as trusting, respectful and authentic’
13 Jan 2021 10:57
Kiwi Military Officer Reflects On Three-Year Service
The ‘Stick’, NZDF Adviser Lieutenant-Colonel Josh Wineera in front of the Commemorative Monument to the 5 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) at the University of the South Pacific. Photo: Leon Lord

For the most part of his service here, New Zealand Defence Adviser Lieutenant-Colonel Josh Wineera was known as the ‘Stick’.

Not because of his rugby skills recently displayed during the over-40s Ratu Sukuna Bowl challenge, but simply because he was the longest serving defence attaché around.

The ‘Stick’ or the Dean of the Attachés was a tradition birthed in 1989.

Its holder is expected to organise all the defence attachés for ceremonial events and help the newbies find their feet.

The first ‘Stick’ was Commander John McAree of the Royal Australian Navy.

It has since changed hands among the Aussies, Kiwis and the Americans.

But with increasing interest in the region, Fiji now hosts five defence attachés including Indonesia and most recently China.

Before his departure next Thursday, Lieutenant-Colonel Wineera will hand over the ‘Stick’ to Commander Constantine Panayiotou, of the US Navy.


Arriving in June 2017, Lieutenant-Colonel Wineera said he had seen a dramatic change in military engagement with the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and the New Zealand Defence Force.

“The engagement has increased in all aspects of the defence partnership, where RFMF-NZDF relations can be characterised as trusting, respectful and authentic,” Lieutenant-Colonel Wineera said.

“It’s not just the number of activities we partner with the RFMF, it’s how we do them and the people that we commit to further enhance the relationship.”

In 2017, NZDF deployed an Inshore Patrol Vessel to Fiji, HMNZS Hawea, to work with the Republic of Fiji Navy in what was called Operation Wasawasa.

The 6-month deployment was repeated in 2018 with HMNZS Taupo and HMNZS Otago.

“Our ships and sailors were able to seamlessly integrate with RFN maritime operations in a way that short port stops could not,” he said.

“With patrols comprising sailors from the two nations, and customs and fishery officers aboard the IPVs Operation Wasawasa was a powerful demonstration of effectively working together to maximise our capabilities.”

In the air, Lieutenant-Colonel Wineera recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Air Force mission at Laucala Bay.

In March 2018 a delegation was led by then Minister of Defence Ron Mark and accompanied by some 30 RNZAF veterans.

Lieutenant-Colonel Wineera estimates that in his time well over 30 RNZAF aircraft that have passed through Fiji.

From P3K2 Orion aircraft conducting maritime surveillance or search and rescue missions, to C-130 Hercules bringing essential supplies, to B757 Boeing’s transporting military contingents, air operations are a strong feature of the defence partnership and co-operation.

In 2018, the NZDF joined with the RFMF and Fiji Police Force to deliver the first Pacific Physical Training Instructors Course. 22 students from around the region came to Fiji to receive the intensive training said Lieutenant-Colonel Wineera.

Last November, a 15-person training team deployed to Fiji to train, coach, mentor and embed alongside RFMF and Ministry of Defence and National Security staff. It was the first of its kind in a COVID-environment.

“I have been humbled to be the defence attachés to Fiji. The professional respect and kindness shown to me by the RFMF, Ministry of Defence and wider Fijian community has deeply touched me.

“When I started in 2017 it was just me here. In 2018 I was joined by Warrant Officer Rick Derksen of the Royal New Zealand Navy and Warrant Officer Class Two Brent Pene from the New Zealand Army, and last year Warrant Officer Dave Lark of the RNZAF.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Wineera will be replaced by Commander Sarah Bamfield of the Royal New Zealand Navy. She is currently in quarantine and starts her duties next week.

Feedback: rosi.doviverata@fijisun.com.fj

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