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Chief of the Defence Force announces the 2022 Person of the Year Award

The Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Kevin Short, has announced NZDF’s 2022 Person of the Year, Leading Youth Development Specialist James Faleofa.

07 December, 2022

The NZDF Person of the Year Award recognises a member of the NZDF in a given calendar year, who most exemplified the Defence Force values of Courage, Commitment, Comradeship, and Integrity.

The recipient is selected from the group of awards presented at the event, as well as members of the NZDF who this year received a royal honour for gallantry; recognition of distinguished and meritorious service; the Defence Meritorious Service Medal, or Chief of Defence Force, Chief of Service or NZDF commendations.

Leading Youth Development Specialist (LYDS) Faleofa’s primary responsibility is a Section Commander at the Youth Development Unit North.

LYDS Faleofa grew up in Kelston and believes that joining the Service Academy, where he met Warrant Officer Ngahiwi Walker, changed the course of his life. LYDS Faleofa says that Warrant Officer Walker was instrumental in his early life and helped to see his potential.

The support and guidance he experienced from Warrant Officer Walker, and having a positive reputation in his community where many young boys and men look up to him, is the driving force behind LYDS Faleofa’s determination to lead young men down a pathway to create positive outcomes for them, their families, and the overall community. 

LYDS Faleofa volunteers his personal time to return to his old High School, Kelston Boys’, as well as opening his and his wife’s home to students for physical training sessions, mentoring, and advice. With guidance from the local NZDF recruiters, he has been able to facilitate ways to reach out to students and guide them in a better direction.

The local recruiting team leader said that what LYDS Faleofa has done, and is managing to do, is truly amazing. Singlehandedly, with support from his wife, he is doing more than any initiative or school who are backed by various resources. Kelston Boys’ is on the path to achieving the most attested students within the Defence Force in the last 12 months. Even if life in uniform doesn’t eventuate for all of those LYDS Faleofa works with, these young men are better people and will become great employees to any future employer, with his support.

LYDS Faleofa consistently conducts his responsibilities to a higher standard than expected. His ability to motivate his fellow staff and course participants to lift their game and strive for more does not go unnoticed.

LYDS Faleofa loves a challenge. He sets himself realistic goals and pushes himself to reach his full potential. He is a man of few words but has a huge heart and wants to influence young men to become the best they can be, and experience the positive influence that he did.

The world that surrounds LYDS Faleofa is not easily broken down into different compartments like work, home, and family. His world is all encompassing and is led by his big heart, caring nature, and giving back.

His personable character along with steadfast professionalism makes him a vital member of the YDU team, an outstanding representative for the Royal New Zealand Navy, and the wider NZDF.

The Chief of Defence Force said LYDS Faleofa’s work within his community embodies the saying, ‘for the people, with the people’.

“The work that LYDS Faleofa does both for the NZDF, and in support of the NZDF, demonstrates unique personal characteristics and proves that our people are truly our best asset,” said the Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Kevin Short.