The 7th Contingent of His Majesty’s Armed Forces (Royal Tongan Marines) returned from Afghanistan on Thursday May 1 after completing their six-months of duty at Camp Bastion and Leatherneck in Afghanistan.
Tonga's participation in the NATO led mission, International and Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan came to an end on 28 April.
The lowering of the Tongan flag by the seventh rotational contingent of the Royal Tongan Marines under the command of Lt. Col Carl Tu'ivai at Camp Bastion and Leatherneck, Helmand Province, Afghanistan marked the end of end of His Majesty's Armed Force's mission in Afghanistan.
The first contingent of 55 Tongan Marines were dispatched to Afghanistan in October 2010. They served with the Camp Bastion Force Protection Wing, and they helped guard the base perimeter as well as man the entry control.
Lieutenant-General John Lorimer, the deputy commander of ISAF said during the flag lowering ceremony that the seventh contingent of Royal Tongan Marines accounted for more than 10% of Tonga's total army of about 500 service members but “is equivalent to the US sending approximately 140,000 service members into the region.”
“You should be justifiably proud of the important role you have delivered here on Camp Bastion, protecting thousands of military and civilian personnel,” he said.
After the Tongan Marines lowered the flag, they sang the national anthem and then performed the Sipi Tau, the Tongan war dance.
All Royal Tongan Marines received medals for their contributions.
Lieutenant-General John Lorimer of the British Army praised the Royal Tongan Marines for their services, “You have repeatedly demonstrated courage and capability” he stated. “You truly have been fantastic ambassadors and representatives of your armed forces.”
Lt-Col Carl Tu'ivai of the Royal Tongan Marines was equally proud, “I feel my men have done a very good job here along with our training in the United Kingdom before we deployed,”
“While in Afghanistan the troops conducted force training exercises at least twice a week. It’s important to stay sharp while we’re here’” said Tu'ivai.
Their duties involved guarding the base perimeter and entry control points.
Brigadier General Tau'aika 'Uta'atu expressed his great joy that Tonga did not lose a soldier during their service in Afghanistan.