Victoria Cross recipient Willie Apiata appointed Special Representative to NZDF

Line of Defence Magazine - Update

Willie Apiata
Willie Apiata VC appointed Special Representative and promoted to Honorary WO1. Image: NZDF.

New Zealand Victoria Cross recipient Willie Apiata was yesterday appointed a Special Representative to the New Zealand Defence Force and promoted to Honorary Warrant Officer Class One.

The appointment and promotion ceremony was conducted in the presence of family and colleagues at Papakura Military Camp, home of New Zealand’s Special Forces, by outgoing Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Kevin Short.

Honorary Warrant Officer Class One (WO1) Apiata is the first ever appointee to the position of Special Representative. The new role is envisaged to include work across international, New Zealand and NZDF activities to contribute to the mana of the NZDF.

According to the announcement, it also enables the NZDF to “provide enduring support and care to WO1 Apiata and any future recipients of the Victoria Cross (VC) – the highest gallantry honour which can be awarded to members of the NZDF.”

“It is a privilege to be appointed to this new role,” WO1 Apiata said. “As a recipient of the VC, I represent the NZDF every day and this appointment formally recognises that relationship.

“It is a great honour to be awarded the Victoria Cross and it comes with much pressure on the recipient. This sets a path not just for me, but for those who might be awarded the VC in the future.”

WO1 Apiata received the VC in 2007 for bravery under fire while serving in Afghanistan in 2004 when he rescued a wounded comrade during a night attack on his patrol. His VC citation in part reads:

In total disregard of his own safety, Lance Corporal Apiata stood up and lifted his comrade bodily. He then carried him across the seventy metres of broken, rocky and fire swept ground, fully exposed in the glare of battle to heavy enemy fire and into the face of returning fire from the main Troop position. That neither he nor his colleague were hit is scarcely possible. Having delivered his wounded companion to relative shelter with the remainder of the patrol, Lance Corporal Apiata re-armed himself and rejoined the fight in counter-attack.

In 2008, he donated his VC to the NZSAS Trust so that the medal might be protected for future generations.

“Promotion to Honorary Warrant Officer rank is a first for the NZDF and this is a reflection of the mark of the man,” said Chief of Army, Major General John Boswell. “He is a humble Kiwi, who every day lives the values of the Defence Force.”

“He will pass on his knowledge and experience to our new recruits and to our new leaders as a coach and mentor, to help create a better culture and a better ethos for the NZDF.”