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25 August 2008
Traditional Butaritari Island welcome for Joint Task Force 637

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has deployed a small Joint Task Force to the small Pacific Island nation of Kiribati to commence Operation Kiribati Assist.

Operation Kiribati Assist is the ADF contribution to Australia's response to a request from the Government of Kiribati to assist in the disposal of World War II unexploded ordnance (UXO) from locations throughout Kiribati. The ADF has world class skills, expertise and capability in conducting explosive ordnance disposal and is happy to be assisting our regional neighbour in clearing the threat posed by unexploded ordnance. The JTF comprises of 22 people and includes a Command Group, a Royal Australian Navy Clearance Diving Team to handle underwater UXO, Army and RAAF EOD teams who will handle land based UXO, including air delivered items and a medical team. The 33 atolls of Kiribati are scattered across 3.5 million square kilometres of the Central Pacific and is the site where the Battle of Tarawa was fought in November 20th, 1943. Most UXO encountered in Kiribati are remnants from this conflict and include military ordnance such as artillery projectiles, aerial bombs, rockets, mortars and mines.