A former Taradale High School student who commanded the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan Province in Afghanistan was recognised in the New Year Honours on Monday.
Lieutenant Colonel Brett Lockwood Wellington, one of four sons of John and Rae Wellington, who still live in Taradale, received the Distinguished Service Decoration (DSD) in the Defence List.
Born in Taranaki, a forms 4-7 student at Taradale HS in 1981-84, now 46 and with about 20 years in the army, he served as the senior military adviser with the NZPRT, (NZ Provincial Reconstruction Team) from August 2011 to April 2012, commanding 129 New Zealand personnel. Lieutenant Colonel Wellington was recently posted to Defence national headquarters in Wellington, which led to confusion in published lists on Monday, incorrectly identifying him as Lieutenant Colonel Brent (sic) Lockwood, Wellington. He, wife Andrea, and their three children now live in Upper Hutt.
Contacted yesterday by Hawke's Bay Today, he wasn't bothered, saying: "Somehow, in this business, you don't mind retaining some sort of anonymity."
A citation released with the New Year Honours says he consistently demonstrated sound professional judgment and the tactics adopted under his leadership helped ensure that the PRT was able to sustain effective operations in those parts of the province that were under the greatest threat.
The PRT also disrupted the insurgent networks and reduced their ability to mount attacks or threaten the local population. He devoted considerable time to the implementation of a plan to transition responsibility for the security of the province to Afghan Security Forces and to withdraw the PRT from Afghanistan.
He is credited with leading the formation of an Afghan National Police Quick Reaction Force, trained to a high standard and now providing local security forces in Afghanistan with greater capacity to resist insurgent threats.
Yesterday, he said all of the contingent he led in Afghanistan had been in high-risk situations, and did an "outstanding job," and were hit-hard by the only loss of an officer during the deployment, in a non-combat situation, just a fortnight before heading home.
He accepts the honour on behalf of them all, saying: "You don't go looking for this. I think being Kiwi we're naturally humble. I guess, at the end of the day, they can't award it to everyone, so so someone has to."
He also noted the role of wives and families who "have a lot to put up" with during long service absences, and with possible disruption of their own careers. His wife, also from Taradale but whom he met when they were both based in Palmerston North, returned to her own career only about five years ago, working at a school in Taupo.
His interest in a military career was well developed by the time he left Taradale HS, where he was captain of the first XV at rugby, in which he was later to play in the army's Under-21 side.
He served about five years, including officer training, taking a break for the big OE in the UK and Europe, and returning to the army about 15 years ago.
He has also done two operational tours in East Timor, the first in 1999, and was also stationed in Iraq as a military adviser to the United Nations, co-ordinating missions throughout Iraq.
"It's one helluva transition coming back to a desk job in a corporate environment," he said.