Former Wanganui High School student Joshua Kauika has been named the Royal New Zealand Navy's Sailor of the Year for 2012.
Leading Diver Kauika was presented with the coveted award by Governor-General Lieutenant-General Sir Jerry Mateparae during a parade in January.
He has been in the Navy since 2006, having joined up straight out of school.
"I always wanted a challenge, and I knew the Navy would get it for me," LDR Kauika said. "My father had always wanted to join one of the armed forces, but he never got the chance, so I'm doing it for him."
LDR Kauika is an underwater engineering diver with the Navy's operational dive team.
He said he did a lot of free-diving with his dad on the East Coast while he was still at school, and that had fuelled his interest in being a Navy diver.
Last year, LDR Kauika was a member of the Royal New Zealand Navy team that took part in the International Mine Counter Measures Exercise in the Persian Gulf.
During the exercise, US participants lost track of a training mine and asked LDR Kauika to search for it.
It was about 50m down, on the seabed, which is around the limit for diving, he said.
"We found it as soon as we got to the bottom."
The citation read out as LDR Kauika was presented with his Sailor of the Year award said of that dive: "He achieved this task with such speed and efficiency that the ... commanders of the Royal Navy and United States Navy singled out Kauika ... praising both his professionalism and effectiveness."
The citation said he led by example, maintained a strong work ethic and was "the epitome of what a leading sailor should be".