After 43 years Ms Suzanne Gingles got her moment in the sun and a red diamond on her shoulder when she was formally awarded her red diamond on parade at Burnham Military Camp.
The distinctive red diamond worn on the left shoulder of the New Zealand Army’s dress uniform identifies those soldiers who belong to the Combat Corps. It is awarded to those who successfully complete Combat Corps Training at their graduation parade.
However when Ms Gingles completed her Combat Corps Training in 1978, as one of the first females to serve in the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (RNZIR), no red diamond was presented to her.
There had been no warning that she would not receive the red diamond she had earned while on parade with her peers.
“It was totally out of the blue, none of us knew it was going to happen. It was emotionally upsetting. There was so much anger and complaints about it that I was posted out of the unit pretty quickly,” she said.
The details of why Ms Gingles didn’t receive it at the time are unclear, traditional stereotypes of that time were challenged and there was disagreement about whether the red diamond should be awarded to a female.
Some years later in 1995 Ms Gingles did receive a frame with a red diamond while posted to the 5th Wellington West Coast and Taranaki Battalion.
“There was a letter that said it was a clerical oversight that I didn’t receive it at the completion of Corps training.”
Chief of Army, Major General John Boswell said Sue’s story reminds us of how far we have come as an Army.
“The value we now place on being diverse and inclusive is something that would have been almost inconceivable to the Army in 1978.
“It’s great that Sue has been appropriately presented her Red Diamond. She earned and deserved it, and that she never stopped fighting for it is commendable,” he said.
Ms Gingles said to this day, the most memorable highlight of her entire military career was qualifying for her red diamond.
“It felt like I was actually part of the Infantry brotherhood and I had earned my right to be one of them.
“I felt part of the brotherhood. I know the Infantry guys I served with certainly treated me with respect,” she said.
Ms Gingles said she still remembers the endless physical training, exercise, drills, digging trenches and running that was involved in her training.
“I had absolutely no special treatment.
“One of my memories is doing a battle fitness test in full kit and webbing, with rifle. I was running past a guy on the side of the road who had fallen out and was crying. For me, that made me work harder,” she said.
She said that receiving her red diamond is bitter sweet.
“I am thrilled to be receiving it from the unit that I earned it from, but sad that I am not in uniform to wear it.”
Ms Gingles said to be officially acknowledged is amazing and her advice to other females wanting to join the Combat Corps is to “be yourself, be strong, but above all believe in yourself”.
She went on to serve 34 years in both the Regular and Territorial Force of the New Zealand Army, retiring in 2014.