News story

Tongan Defence Chief visits Camp Bastion

The Commander of the Tonga Defence Services, Brigadier General Tau'aika 'Uta'atu, has visited the RAF Force Protection Wing at Camp Bastion.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Tongan soldiers on parade at Camp Bastion
Tongan soldiers on parade at Camp Bastion [Picture: Corporal Neil Bryden RAF, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]

Brigadier General ‘Uta’atu was guest of honour at the handover ceremony from the 4th to the 5th Tongan Contingent, along with Brigadier McLay, Commanding Officer of Joint Force Support (Afghanistan).

The Tonga Defence Services have supported RAF Force Protection (FP) in Afghanistan since December 2010.

Currently 55 Tongan soldiers work alongside the FP Wing, in particular with the RAF Police on perimeter and internal security operations, protecting the vital airbridge to and from the UK, as well as a range of personnel and units that support UK operations.

Training for this vital role started in Tonga, and continued with further specialist training at RAF Honington in Suffolk, under the guidance of the RAF Regiment.

The Commander of the 5th Tongan Contingent, Captain Tony Fonokalafi, is confident that his personnel are ready for the task. He said:

The training in both Tonga and RAF Honington has provided the skills and confidence to take over the security tasks at Camp Bastion with no hesitation.

The troops are highly motivated, want to maintain the high standards set by the 4th Contingent, and are looking forward to a successful six-month deployment.

As the new Contingent Commander this makes me confident.

Brigadier McLay said:

Bastion plays a crucial role in ensuring that operations across southern Afghanistan remain well supported, and it will also play a major part in providing the firm base from which ISAF will transfer responsibility for security to our Afghan National Security Forces colleagues.

The 'Sipi Tau'
Tongan soldiers perform their traditional 'Sipi Tau' war dance [Picture: Corporal Neil Bryden RAF, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]

They have contributed enormously to the continued security of Bastion over the last few years and I would like to warmly welcome the 5th Tongan Contingent.

A society known for its tribal traditions and passion for music - fierce and emotive, the Tongans did not disappoint those who attended the handover ceremony. The initial charm of harmonisation in the performance of traditional hymns was rapidly replaced with the intensity and passion of the ferocious ancestral war dance the ‘Sipi Tau’.

Performed in two parts, the outgoing 4th Contingent lay down the challenge of duty, which in turn the incoming Contingent accepted, declaring their readiness.

Wing Commander Chris Bishop, Commanding Officer of the Bastion FP Wing, said:

The Tonga Defence Services continue to fulfil a vital role in the defence of ISAF’s strategically important Joint Operating Base at Camp Bastion. Tongan Contingent 5, like their predecessors, are at the forefront of base operations, conducting a number of key defensive roles.

Personnel man observation towers on the base perimeter 24/7, they search local nationals and contractors upon entry to the base, and they guard both aircraft and VIPs using the airfield.

Squadron Leader Stewart Beekman, Officer Commanding Bastion Security Squadron, said:

The Tongans really understand the importance of force protection. They work seamlessly with the RAF Regiment, the RAF Police and the Royal Artillery to provide the required effect to protect this air hub for logistics in Helmand and beyond.

Published 12 December 2012