Royal New Zealand Air Force senior intelligence specialist Corporal Joseph Lavery from Methven, is looking back on a successful 2023 when he was named Royal New Zealand Air Force Aviator of the Year.
‘‘I certainly wasn’t expecting this award,’’ the 28-year-old, now based in Wellington, said.
‘‘It felt pretty awesome to receive the award and recognition.’’
Lavery joined the air force six years ago, after getting an insight into the work and lifestyle through his fiance Laura who was a member.
He said he joined intelligence because of the opportunities it offered 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,” Lavery said.
He has since been sent on numerous deployments supporting New Zealand missions around the world, the locations of which can not be shared for operational reasons.
He said intelligence was rewarding, and an ‘‘awesome trade”, because of its operational focus.
“Through intelligence we can provide the commanders with information that informs decision making. The goal is to provide accurate and actionable intelligence which help to inform a meaningful decision,’’ Lavery said.
“We protect deployed New Zealanders, we make sure they are safe and continue to be safe if things change. We’re out there to have an effect, you’re trying to make a situation better.’’
The Aviator of the Year is awarded annually to a service person who makes a significant and positive contribution to the air force and defence force, and who personifies the organisation’s core values.
Lavery’s nominators, which included a commanding officer from a recent deployment, said he had been instrumental in the development of the defence force’s capacity to provide specialist intelligence support to deployed personnel and other government agencies.
His work had enhanced the reputation of the forces with partners and other government agencies.
Alongside the Aviator of the Year trophy, made out of a section of the blade of an Iroquois helicopter, he received a miniature of the trophy to keep, air force coins, the Chief of Air Force Commendation certificate and pin which he can wear forever, and an Aviator of the Year pin which he gets to wear for a year.
His proud family including parents Robert and Jane in the Rakaia Gorge area, and friends, attended the award ceremony, held in November.
As the winner, he also was taking part in engagements such as recruitment. He had since attended a combined Pacific Air Force course focusing on leadership, mission command and organisational culture at Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam in Hawaii.
In 2022, Lavery was part of the defence force contingent at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.