26 October, 2023
The Aviator of the Year is awarded annually to a serviceperson who makes a significant and positive contribution to the RNZAF and NZDF, and who personifies the organisations’ core values.
According to his nomination for the award, Corporal Lavery had been instrumental in the development of the NZDF’s capacity to provide specialist intelligence support to deployed personnel and to other government agencies. His work had enhanced the reputation of the RNZAF and NZDF with partners and other government agencies over the past year.
The 28-year-old from Methven joined the RNZAF’s Intelligence trade because of the opportunities to travel.
“I have always been interested in world affairs and what’s going on internationally and intelligence seemed like a great option. I talked with someone about the trades in the Air Force and they told me that if you want to travel, join intelligence,” Corporal Lavery said.
The advice was sound, and over the past six years Corporal Lavery had been sent on numerous deployments around the world, creating lifelong memories.
Following his training, Corporal Lavery was posted to No. 230 Squadron at RNZAF Base Auckland, with his main role supporting No. 5 Squadron’s P-3K2 Orions. In the past three years his deployments expanded to working in tri-service or Joint Headquarters intelligence roles.
“When you deploy in my trade, you are often in a small team going into a big mission. It’s cool to bring a tiny piece of Kiwi to these huge multi-national missions,” he said.
“Oftentimes, because we have a different background or perspective we can be quite creative about the way we approach problems, we can get quite a lot of scope to approach things in a really awesome and unique way.
“When we deploy, we’re out there to have an effect - you’re trying to make a situation better. There are many people, and groups of people who have bad intentions which don’t align with our values as Kiwis. The NZDF has given me and the teams I have worked in the opportunity to contribute towards creating a safer and more secure environment by better understanding these situations.”
For Corporal Lavery, the most gratifying part of his job was working with colleagues on missions.
“What’s incredibly rewarding about this service is when you get someone who comes in and is keen to get involved, you can give them some of your experience to get them to the point where they can do it themselves. Then they go away and do us all proud. That’s where you get growth in the service. It’s a big part of why I enjoy deploying.”
Intelligence was “an awesome trade” because of its operational focus, he said.
“Through intelligence we can provide the commanders with information that informs decision making. The goal is to provide accurate and actionable intelligence which helped to inform a meaningful decision.”
Last year, Corporal Lavery was part of the NZDF contingent at Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.
“It was our final duty for Her Late Majesty and our first for His Majesty. Having marched in the funeral procession, past the Palace up to Wellington Arch, we were positioned perfectly to see Her Majesty being transferred from the gun carriage into the hearse. It was our final moment with her, I will never forget it.”
Now based in Wellington, Corporal Lavery works to support New Zealand missions.
“We protect deployed New Zealanders, we make sure they are safe and continue to be safe if things change. The world is changing at the moment.”
He said it was wonderful to have been recognised for the work he has done during his career.
“I have deployed a lot and it’s been hefty. My partner is an absolute superstar. There’s no way I could have done it without the support from her and my family. She knows how important this is to me.”