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Standout Gunner named Soldier of the Year 2023

Lance Bombardier Jake O’Hara is in his element when he has a problem to solve. His exemplary attitude to his career, and the way he treats his fellow soldiers has earned him the title of New Zealand Army’s Soldier of the Year.

30 November, 2023

Lance Bombardier O’Hara received news of being a finalist for the award whilst deployed on exercise overseas. News of the award came as a shock to the 23-year-old gunner, as he was quickly flown back to New Zealand for the finalist awards ceremony.

“I was surprised but pretty stoked,” he said.

Lance Bombardier O’Hara is a member of 161 Battery, 16th Field Regiment and based in Linton. His managers say his work ethic and personal skills and attributes set a standard worth celebrating. Jake says he just likes solving problems and troubleshooting, especially the technical aspects of his work in the battery. 

“I think it’s just the way mum and dad brought me up. I really care for my mates and the people around me.”

Lance Bombardier O’Hara is a Command Systems lance bombardier and his role is to be a master of all things within the Command Post. When a new and advanced Fire Prediction System was introduced into service, Lance Bombardier O’Hara took it upon himself to become a Subject Matter Expert (SME).

As an SME, Jake represented 16 Field Regt as the Command Systems expert on Exercise Bold Quest 23, the largest international display of new and upcoming military equipment in the world. After this international activity, he spent many hours teaching and sharing his knowledge with his Royal New Zealand Artillery colleagues, to make sure they were well-versed in the Fire Prediction systems’ intricacies.

He excelled during his non-commissioned officer course, supporting and mentoring fellow course members outside of regular course hours. This saw him receive the Peers Award.

His managers have noted he has been a constant source of support to soldiers in stressful times, providing essential companionship and reassurance.

“It’s good to be able to help people through hardships – it’s challenging but rewarding at the same time,” he says.

He spends his spare time in the gym, and learning to play the guitar. When he goes home to Thames he enjoys going hunting with his dad.

He plans on staying in the Army and progressing through his trade, and hopes to eventually have a role in the Army’s School of Artillery where he can teach and coach other soldiers. 

“To be there to guide the younger generation would be pretty cool.”