Afghanistan — Tongans handover to new contingent in Camp Bastion

A third con­tin­gent of Ton­ga Defence Ser­vices (TDS) has con­duct­ed a cer­e­mo­ni­al han­dover to begin work along­side mem­bers of the RAF Police and the RAF Reg­i­ment to deliv­er force pro­tec­tion at Camp Bas­tion.

A con­tin­gent from the Ton­ga Defence Ser­vices issue a tra­di­tion­al chal­lenge, called a Sipi Tau, to their replace­ments dur­ing a cer­e­mo­ni­al han­dover in Camp Bas­tion, Afghanistan [Pic­ture: Flight Lieu­tenant Liz Price, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

A tra­di­tion­al chal­lenge called a Sipi Tau was issued to the replace­ment con­tin­gent by the Ton­gan sol­diers who had just com­plet­ed a six-month tour of duty at Camp Bastion. 

The sec­ond TDS con­tin­gent to sup­port ISAF oper­a­tions in Afghanistan, hand­ed over their duties to the third con­tin­gent in Camp Bas­tion, where they will be based for the next six months. 

The parade, attend­ed by VIP guests includ­ing the new­ly appoint­ed com­man­der of Joint Force Sup­port (Afghanistan) Brigadier ‘Mitch’ Mitchell, attract­ed plen­ty of inter­est from per­son­nel hop­ing to see the tra­di­tion­al Sipi Tau war dance of the South Pacif­ic Islanders. 

Hav­ing trav­elled over 8,000 miles (12,875km) from an island of only 100,000 peo­ple to Hel­mand province, the TDS, who in total are only 600-strong, rep­re­sent a for­mi­da­ble force, as the Sipi Tau demonstrated. 

The Com­mand­ing Offi­cer of the Roy­al Ton­gan Marines, Lieu­tenant Colonel Tupou Aleamo­tua, explained: 

“The Sipi Tau is a chal­lenge laid down by Ton­gan war­riors. The out­go­ing unit will lay down the chal­lenge to the new. The new con­tin­gent will reply with their own Sipi Tau to say they accept the chal­lenge and will take up the responsibilities.” 

As is cus­tom­ary dur­ing such a parade there was an exchange of flags, and then more unusu­al­ly prayers, which were sung per­fect­ly by the Ton­gan troops who are well known at Camp Bas­tion for their sen­sa­tion­al singing as well a fierce com­pet­i­tive spir­it on the sports pitch. 

The new contingent’s role, serv­ing along­side mem­bers of the RAF Police and RAF Reg­i­ment, is crit­i­cal to ensur­ing the secu­ri­ty of Camp Bastion’s main entry point, perime­ter, and airfield. 

Brig Mitchell said: 

“The deploy­ment of fifty-five Ton­ga Defence Ser­vice Marines in Camp Bas­tion today is a real boost to our capa­bil­i­ty here. We are delight­ed the Ton­gans show such sup­port for the ISAF effort. 

“That the deploy­ment rep­re­sents approx­i­mate­ly on third of their Armed Forces is illus­tra­tive of their commitment.” 

He added: 

“I enjoyed meet­ing some of the troops today and was giv­en a taste of their for­mi­da­ble spir­it and iden­ti­ty when those return­ing home per­formed the Sipi Tau — a rous­ing spir­i­tu­al dance. We look for­ward to work­ing with the TDS and I wish them a safe tour.” 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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