Around 300 members of the Australian Defence Force have joined a French-led multinational force to participate in valuable disaster response training, less than two weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Australia where Defence partnerships and co-operation between Australia and France were high on the agenda.
The exercise is designed to increase Australia’s interoperability with other regional nations.
Running until 25 May, Exercise Croix Du Sud (Southern Cross) 18 is the largest humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) training exercise in the South Pacific. Led by the French Armed Forces of New Caledonia (FANC), Croix Du Sud is held every two years as part of France’s engagement in the region.
Designed to ensure all participants are prepared for major HADR operations, the scenario will call for military assistance including a non-combatant evacuation operation followed by stability and security operations.
The Commander of the Australian Contingent, Wing Commander Todd Yurkowski, said the exercise tackles the more difficult areas of disaster response.
"Croix Du Sud allows us to deal with the responses that may be required when the security situation is complex following a disaster," he said.
"Australia is very experienced with supplying aid and disaster recovery forces to the region; this exercise will allow us to train as a multinational force dealing with non-combatant evacuation and security operations.
"By training for the difficult aspects we become better prepared for a co-ordinated response under a broader range of possibilities."
Australia will contribute naval vessels, transport aircraft and Army engineers.
Croix Du Sud includes troop contributions from France (New Caledonia), Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Chile, the US and Vanuatu.