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Award honours Officer's achievement in deployment to Iraq

Lieutenant Colonel Iain Hill is one of several Army personnel recently honoured for their outstanding performance in Iraq as members of the final Defence Force rotation to the Building Partner Capacity mission at the Taji Military Complex, near Baghdad.

22 April, 2021

Lieutenant Colonel Hill, who has been awarded the Defence Meritorious Service Medal, was New Zealand’s Senior National Officer, and Chief of Staff in the Coalition Task Group Headquarters in Iraq, from November 2019 to March 2020.

Lieutenant Colonel Hill, originally from Scotland, served in the British Army for seven years before transferring to the New Zealand Army in 2012. This was not his first Army service in Iraq – he served in a British deployment to Basra in 2007.

The citation notes that Lieutenant Colonel Hill was tested early on, by a life-threatening incident during the mission rehearsal exercise in Darwin. A young officer nearly drowned while swimming and had to be returned to New Zealand.

“It was a body blow to us all,” said Lieutenant Colonel Hill. “Thankfully he has recovered, but the event certainly brought us closer together and made us stronger for when we arrived in Iraq.”

The citation states that Lieutenant Colonel Hill’s leadership and influence were later tested again, by “a number of complex issues, including a missile crisis and during rocket attacks, in which his management and control of the camp were essential”.

“The context of our mission was unique,” he said. 

“The environment was intense … we had to deal with more critical incidents than in the nine previous rotations combined.

“But above all, as the final rotation to Taji we wanted to ensure New Zealand’s strategic reputation on conclusion of our deployment, and I think we achieved that, thanks largely to the excellent team I had. 

“They made it possible … their professionalism and commitment were exceptional. I am enormously proud of them all - it’s no coincidence that six other members of the contingent have received honours for their work. 

The citation makes particular mention of his work as chief of staff in the Task Group headquarters: “[He] quickly established himself as a trusted officer within the Australian and New Zealand Coalition Headquarters. He led, directed and mentored staff to achieve excellent outcomes. He became indispensable in his inform-and-assist role, providing leadership with sound, well considered tactical and operational advice that helped shape strategic decision-making.” 

In conclusion, the citation says that: “Lieutenant Colonel Hill’s achievements are of an extremely high calibre and are indicative of the ethos, traditions and values of the New Zealand Army, the New Zealand Defence Force and the Anzac spirit.”