Join the Army, buy your own gear
The disclosure in last week’s Court Martial that SAS troops have to buy their own combat gear when sent on missions is appalling, says Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff.
“The Court Martial, which was supposedly for an SAS soldier unlawfully selling army equipment, instead revealed the soldier spent thousands of dollars of his own money to buy essential gear including body armour, helicopter lanyards and safety boots.
“Other soldiers deployed in Afghanistan on front line duties revealed they had also bought equipment they needed but was not provided in time.
“The Court was told soldiers were buying equipment online which was critical to firing their weapons but which was not provided by the New Zealand Defence Force.
“When we put Kiwi soldiers on the front line where their lives are at risk, the Government has an obligation to provide them with all the necessary equipment for them to protect themselves.
“Evidence at the Court Martial suggests this is not the case. The Minister of Defence must explain why the country’s best soldiers felt obliged to pay for their own equipment which they considered essential but which the Army did not provide for them.
“New Zealand is surely not so poor that things like electronic sighting aids or helicopter lanyards cannot be met from the Defence budget or provided in a timely manner.
“The tragedy in this case was that after spending his own money on equipment, he mistakenly sold equipment he thought was his own and was charged with theft.
“The presiding judge Christopher Hudson found there was nothing missing from military stores, so he may have inadvertently substituted his own equipment for the Army’s.
“This was a soldier who has served on four deployments, was recommended for promotion and was praised by his superior officers as a good soldier who did the job,” Phil Goff says.