Lieutenant Colonel Boniface Aruma of PNG army to serve as deputy commander of the Australian Army’s 3rd Brigade in Townsville

Lieutenant Colonel Ken Golder (left) and Lieutenant Colonel Aruma (right). Lieutenant Colonel Ken Golder (left) says the appointment will deepen ties between both nations. (ABC North Queensland: Baz Ruddick)

A military leader from Papua New Guinea will become the second-in-command of one of Australia’s combat brigades in a historic move designed to shore up military ties between the two nations.

It is the first time a foreign military officer has been appointed to such a senior role in the history of the Australian Army. Lieutenant Colonel Boniface Aruma from the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) will become deputy commander of the 3rd Brigade in Townsville, Australia’s largest garrison city, from next year.

“For us back home, it’s a big deal … this is really a giant leap for us as an organisation,” Lieutenant Colonel Aruma said. “It’s the most senior appointment that we have ever exported overseas.”

Lieutenant Colonel Aruma has served in PNG’s army for 27 years. He studied in Australia, earning two master’s degrees in international relations and defence studies from Deakin and Australian National University.

He said the defence capabilities of both nations were set to benefit from his involvement in the high command at the Australian brigade.

“You now have someone from the Pacific region who sits here, who has a little bit more understanding of how the dynamics work back home,” Lieutenant Colonel Aruma said. “We share the same values and the same idea and what we want our region to be like – safe, secure and stable.”

The outgoing deputy commander of the 3rd Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Ken Golder, said Chief of the Australian Defence Force Angus Campbell approached his PNG counterpart Mark Goina last year to discuss the possibility of a military embed.

While troops from the 3rd Brigade have long been involved in training exchanges with PNG, Lieutenant Colonel Golder said the appointment would foster a “tangible, person-to-person” relationship inside the headquarters.

“It was mutually agreeable and in fact, strengthened what we’ve been doing,” he said.

Lieutenant Colonel Aruma recently travelled to Canberra to complete ADF training to deepen his understanding of the local position.

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