Command – Tonga

Command – Tonga


The November 2006 intervention of Australian and New Zealand military forces in Tonga was led by New Zealand. The commander of the Joint Task Force was NZDF Lieutenant Colonel Darren Beck, while the Commander of the Australian Defence Force contingent in Tonga was ADF Major James Hammett.

Government sources

Talks between New Zealand-Led Joint Task Force and Tongan Defence Services, NZDF website, 20 November 2006

Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Rear Admiral Jack Steer is very pleased with the progress to date.

“ ‘The New Zealand-led force has achieved its first major goal of providing security to the Tongan international airport to enable it to safely open again. The New Zealand and Australian forces came together in a well orchestrated plan and were able to provide immediate support to Airport security personnel and the Tongan Defence Services,’ said Rear Admiral Steer.

“The Combined Joint Task Force will remain in Tonga at the request of the Tongan Government for the interim.  The focus is now on undertaking consultation, planning and preparation for future tasks that may arise.”

Triumph in Tonga, Captain Al Green, Army News, Volume 11, No. 58, 14 December 2006

“The operational command was run by HQ 1 Div, formerly Deployable Joint Force Headquarters. These types of operations are their specialty – cross service support, in the form of troop transport for example, and international linkages at the working level were addressed here. The preparedness of the RCG meant the troops were squared away with their skills and administration – always ready to go.  The routine feel of the rapid DPDS work-up, intelligence briefings and orders, issue of rations, stores and ammo were also a far cry from the time when quick notice deployments were a rarity…..”

Interviews with ADF Commander James Hammett, Department of Defence website, 21 November 2006

Audio interviews with Major James Hammett, commander of the ADF contingent in Tonga, November 2006

Commentary and analysis

Cutting their cloth: New Zealand’s defence strategy, Jim Rolfe, ASPI Strategy Paper, April 2007, pp15, 36

“In Afghanistan, Solomon Islands, East Timor and most recently Tonga, operations have been controlled from the Joint Force Headquarters without regard to the service of the staff officers involved, and units and personnel from the different services have worked closely and efficiently together in the field. Tonga was not only a joint operation, albeit small, but also a combined one with Australia in which New Zealand took overall command of the operation. The deployment worked well once initial teething troubles between the two countries, mostly relating to the slightly different tasks given to the two forces by their respective governments were resolved…..

“New Zealand sees no dilemma in wanting to be treated more or less equally by Australia. New Zealand took the lead in the Bougainville peace process because Australia was unacceptable to the protagonists in the dispute, and led the 2006 combined deployment to Tonga because Tonga is within New Zealand’s unofficial ‘sphere of responsibility’. New Zealand’s ability to lead on these kinds of missions argues for an equal role with Australia in decision making on issues that affect both countries.”

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