353rd SOG marches in an ANZAC Day parade

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jessica Tait, 353rd Special Operations Group Public Affairs
  • 353rd Special Operations Group
Members of the 353rd Special Operations Group marched in a local ANZAC Day parade with Royal New Zealand Air Force partners, April 25, 2017 in Blenheim, New Zealand.

ANZAC Day commemorates Australia and New Zealand’s tremendous courage and losses from World War I during the Battle of Gallipoli.

“This is a very historical time for us as it marks the 100-year anniversary of the U.S. participation in the Great War back in 1917,” said Col. William Freeman, 353rd SOG commander. “We are able to reflect on the past, remember what we are doing in the present and honor those who have fallen in past conflict.”

The air commandos were invited to join RNZAF partners from 40th Squadron in their ANZAC Day festivities.

“We are very humbled that our RNZAF partners asked us to participate in their ANZAC Day parade,” said Freeman. “Being able to march here demonstrates a true relationship and partnership with a Five Eyes partner.”

Members of the 353rd SOG and 40th SQDN increased military cooperation during the fourth iteration of Exercise Teak Net, which took place April 15-18, 2017 at RNZAF Base Auckland and April 18-28, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand.

“It’s great to have the U.S. Air Force here and we are always pleased when they come,” said Squadron Leader Blair Oldershaw, detachment commander for Exercise Skytrain. “I think any good relationship is built upon a lot of small personal relationships and these opportunities allow us to break down barriers and help people understand that we have a lot more in common than we have apart.”

This year marked the first time the 353rd SOG participated in an ANZAC Day parade and ceremony.

“After a 25-year absence from New Zealand, the 353rd SOG sent people down here to build relationships and improve the interoperability between our militaries,” said Maj. Mark Schmidt, mission commander for Exercise Teak Net. “It has been awesome to watch the evolution of engagements with 40th SQDN continued to grow since 2014 from both a military and social aspect. Marching with our partners in their ANZAC Day parade truly speaks to the strength of the friendship between the U.S. and New Zealand.”

Exercise Teak Net is an annual joint, combined exchange training (JCET) focused on improving interoperability between the U.S. and New Zealand militaries.