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Chief of Defence Force recognised for decades of service and leadership

The outgoing head of NZ’s military, Air Marshal Kevin Short, says he is “chuffed” to be recognised in this year’s King’s Birthday Honour List after many years of reviewing honour lists featuring names of fellow New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel.

03 June, 2024

Air Marshal Short has been appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for his nearly 50-year military career in the NZDF, including in his latest role as the Chief of Defence Force (CDF).

The CNZM is one of two recognitions for the NZDF in this King’s Birthday Honours list, with Wing Commander Mark Whiteside receiving a Distinguished Service Decoration (DSD).

During his tenure as the longest serving CDF in more than 50 years, he led the NZDF through significant and unprecedented domestic and global events, from the Whakaari/White Island volcanic eruption, the COVID-19 pandemic, to the evacuation of New Zealanders from Kabul during the 2021 Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Air Marshal Short said after years of reviewing honour lists featuring names of NZDF personnel, it felt surreal to see his own name amongst the list of recipients.

“I wasn’t expecting it and I was totally caught out. I feel really honoured and quite chuffed about it. I’ve spent all of my adult life dedicated to the Defence Force so it means a lot to receive this level of recognition.

“I will wear the CNZM on behalf of everyone who serves in the Defence Force. I see this as an acknowledgement of not only my effort and dedication to service, but also that of everyone I have had the privilege of leading and working alongside”.

Air Marshal Short’s citation also acknowledged his work in a resource-constrained, pandemic environment, managing complex capability updates, overseeing military and humanitarian aid operations in New Zealand and overseas and leading important initiatives in leadership and diversity.

Air Marshal Kevin Short has commanded at all levels of the NZDF, latterly CDF from 2018 to 2024.

He joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) in 1976 and his first role as a navigator. He rose through the ranks as a navigator leader, tactical coordinator and aircraft captain – clocking more than 5000 flying hours in the P-3K2 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft.

In 2006-07 he was the commander of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan.

Air Marshal Short has overseen inclusivity and diversity inroads within NZDF, which has been recognised with gender equality and rainbow inclusion awards.

Earlier this year he was awarded the United States’ Commander of the Legion of Merit, the Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia (Military Division) in 2022 and the Honorary Gallant Commander of the Malaysian Armed Forces (First Degree) in 2019.

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The New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration has been awarded to Wing Commander Mark Whiteside for services to the NZDF for his work in introducing the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft into service with the RNZAF.

Wing Commander Whiteside was posted to the Poseidon project team in early 2019 and became a leading figure in acquisition and delivery of the fleet, where the four aircraft were introduced into service last year.

His approach allowed a seamless transition from the old P-3K2 Orion to the Poseidon, and he then led the move of No 5 Squadron from RNZAF Base Auckland to RNZAF Base Ohakea.

“His leadership enabled the new unit to establish a positive culture and identity, resulting in successful integration of up to 170 personnel and their families into the RNZAF Base Ohakea community,” his citation said.

Wing Commander Whiteside, who joined the RNZAF in 2001 and trained as an Air Warfare Officer, said he was humbled and honoured to receive the recognition.

“I am mindful that this is an individual honour yet the success of the Poseidon is very much due to the collective effort of a whole team of outstanding people.

“I am very proud of the capability we have delivered for New Zealand and the people behind it who are now realising its potential on operations.”

I am mindful that this is an individual honour yet the success of the Poseidon is very much due to the collective effort

Wing Commander Mark Whiteside

WGCDR Whiteside