CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand --
Marines celebrated the completion of exercise Southern Katipo 2013 with veterans of the New Zealand Defence Force at the Returned Services Association in Christchurch, New Zealand, Nov. 26.
Pvt. Stioux Rankin, radio operator during Vietnam led Marines to the tombstone of Capt. Charles Upham, two-time Victoria Cross recipient, and one of the most decorated service members of the New Zealand Defence Force.
Maj. William Allen, executive officer for 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, and commander of the special purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force during SK13, was the first to say a prayer over Upham’s grave on behalf of the Marine Corps.
“It was special to be around so many veterans and share our camaraderie with them and their spouses,” Allen said. “It’s really unique to be able to get in touch with the past and have a chance to see the burial site of one of their most decorated veterans. That was a special way for the exercise to come to an end.”
Welcoming the Marines to the New Zealand Defence Force’s veteran hall had equal impact for Rankin, who did everything in his power to attend the celebration.
“The last time I saw Marines was Vietnam,” Rankin. “To see Marines again—it’s one of those neat things that I never thought would happen in my lifetime.”
During the closing ceremony for SK13, held at Burnham Military Camp, each commander was personally thanked and given a plaque by the commander of the New Zealand Defence Force.
“The commander told me how much he appreciated our spirit throughout and our willingness to do whatever we were called upon to do,” Allen said. “He thanked the Marines for continuing to show that professional example in a variety of situations.”
The Marine Corps brought experts from a variety of different occupational backgrounds to participate in SK13 and work alongside the New Zealand Defence Force within amphibious and land operations.
“Our Marines performed phenomenally,” Allen said. “The subject matter experts that we had from across the MAGTF really spoke to the power that we were able to generate.”
SK13 is a biennial, multinational exercise hosted by the New Zealand Defence Force that strengthens interoperability between allied nations and perfects operational performance in preparation for future events.