10 Jul 2013

Fiji to boost the number of territorials in its military force

5:42 pm on 10 July 2013

Republic of Fiji Military Forces are to beef up numbers by around 1,000 territorials to meet the growing demand for peacekeeping soldiers.

Fiji has already deployed 180 soldiers to the Golan Heights and these numbers are to be boosted to more than 500.

Land Force Commander Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga says they need the additional soldiers to sustain this and a number of other deployments.

MOSESE TIKOITOGA: We haven't had a big deployment as such since we left Lebanon in 2002. We had 753 people in Lebanon. And because of that, our numbers in the territorial force has aged. And now with this new deployment we really need to make sure that our territorial force will supplement about 50% of our deployment. The figures need to be raised so that we can sustain our deployment overseas. We also have over 300 soldiers in the Sinai as part of the multinational portion of service, and we also have 198 soldiers in Iraq.

DON WISEMAN: It's a lot of men, isn't it? How many of them are regular soldiers?

MT: In all deployments we have a 60 percent/40 percent ratio - 60% regular force and 40% territorial force ratio. And that's why we've gone for these recruits.

DW: If it's just the territorials you're boosting, that ratio is going to change, isn't it?

MT: Certainly not. It will stay that way. We just want to make sure that we have enough people. Because they don't just recruit and go. They need to go through corps training and they need to go through a few more military courses before we can allow them to deploy overseas. Currently, we can manage with the numbers we have, but we're looking long-term. And we're doing this recruit and we'll take the recruits after the end of this year and the whole of next year to put them through the various courses in preparation for peacekeeping deployment.

DW: At the end of this process, have you got an idea of just what sort of numbers you're looking at in a combined regular and territorial force?

MT: Well, we have a force of 3,000 at the moment. Our territorial force is about 1,500. At the end of this recruitment we'll boost the numbers up to about 2,500.

DW: Now, Fiji has established links with Russia in terms of military support, so what will that mean in terms of your relationship?

MT: Yeah. First and foremost, we're a non-aligned country. That needs to be said. We're a non-aligned country and our relationship with all countries is the same. What the Russians have offered is to help arm our boys for peacekeeping operations, the detail of which has not been agreed yet. But they have given us that offer that they can help us in the deployment through arming our troops. In what form, that has to be determined and has to be worked out, specifically needs to be worked out between the two governments.