Lance-corporal Kane Ritchie, of Dunedin, is part of the New
Zealand Defence Force's Operation Crib in Afghanistan,
where he spent Christmas. He is a a crew commander working
with the New Zealand fleet of LAVs (light armoured
vehicles, below) in Afghanistan. Supplied photo.
While his family unwrapped Christmas presents in Dunedin
yesterday, Lance-corporal Kane Ritchie was awaiting orders at
the New Zealand Defence Force army base in Afghanistan's
The 23-year-old is halfway through a seven-month deployment
to the war-torn country, his second in which he spent
Christmas with about 150 others at the Kiwi defence base.
Lcpl Ritchie is a crew commander working with the New Zealand
fleet of LAVs (light armoured vehicles) as part of Operation
He spoke to the Otago Daily Times from Afghanistan
about spending Christmas away from home.
''Christmas is usually pretty good here. They put on a good
feed at the mess with secret Santa and other activities.
There is also a church service if you're that way inclined,''
Although Lcpl Ritchie was not likely to be patrolling on
Christmas Day, traditional New Zealand holiday pursuits such
as non-stop cricket were probably out of the question.
''It's actually been quite cold here at the moment and looks
like it could snow,'' he said.
Half a world away, in Dunedin, his parents and brothers were
gearing up for a much warmer holiday.
But Lcpl Ritchie said he did not mind being with fellow
soldiers over the Christmas and New Year period.
''The group you work in gets quite tight, so it's not too bad
spending the holidays away from home. It's all part of the
job,'' he said.
Lcpl Ritchie's first deployment to Afghanistan was in October
2009 and lasted about six months.
The former Otago Boys' High School pupil followed in his
father's footsteps and joined the army when he was 17 years
His younger brother Josh (21) has also joined the NZDF.
Kane's mother Sharon said Christmas would be quieter without
him, although it was not unusual for the family to be
separated at Christmas.
''With three family members in the army, we are no strangers
to having a loved one absent over a holiday period, but
endeavour to make contact with each other on or close to the
day and ensure plenty of Christmas treats are put in the
post,'' she said.