Speech – New Zealand Government
Thank you to the co-hosts of this event: Dr Geoff Perry, Dean of the Business and Law Faculty School and David McGregor of the Auckland and Northland Territorial Forces Employer Council.Auckland-Northland Employer of Reservist of the Year Award
AUT University, City Campus,
2 Governor Fitzroy Place, Auckland.
Thank you to the co-hosts of this event: Dr Geoff Perry, Dean of the Business and Law Faculty School and David McGregor of the Auckland and Northland Territorial Forces Employer Council.
Also welcome to Brigadier Sean Trengrove the director of the NZDF Reserve Forces and other present and past members of the NZDF.
And I also especially wish to welcome to the employers who have Defence Force reservists on their staff, and also all of those from AUT.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here this evening.
Many of you may know that my predecessor as Minister of Defence, Dr Wayne Mapp, was a reservist.
And indeed he served with the Auckland-Northland battalion with some of you in this room tonight.
I haven’t been a reservist but I am confident enough to recognise the valuable contribution made by NZDF reservists.
Our reserve forces have recently been experiencing change, particularly in the Army.
Just recently the Army’s six Territorial Force (TF) RNZIR battalions were amalgamated to form three new battalions, a move that will deliver a more operationally focused and sustainable reserve capability for the Army.
One objective is to ensure the Army Reserve personnel can easily and quickly be integrated into a fulltime unit if that unit requires supplementation for an exercise or deployment and just as easily, and quickly, returned to the Army Reserve as and when required.
This will boost reservist skill levels and raise the profile, utility and range of civilian skills within the wider NZDF.
This increased awareness should also ensure that if personnel leave the RF, the TF will be something they actively consider transferring to as an extension of the world they already know and operate in.
There will be 1200 who train regularly on the Ready Reserve List and a further 600 on the Stand-By list.
A recent example of the value of reservists and the quick switch from civilian to military duties is the ongoing support being provided following the Canterbury earthquake. A group of reservists are still continuing to provide security cordon duties to this day.
And there have been many other examples over recent years. A notable example was in East Timor when New Zealand deployed a battalion in Suai, along the border region.
Sustaining a battalion presence for several years represented some heavy lifting. It was a significant achievement for a Defence Force of our size. And reservists played an important part in providing personnel to support that operation.
After the battalion’s withdrawal, the on-going smaller presence in Dili also operated with reservist numbers. While reservists have also been part of our assistance mission in the Solomon Islands, which was recently completed.
Other operations such as military observer roles in the Middle East have been filled occasionally by NZDF reservists.
As well, reservists play a useful role in both the volunteer Navy reserve and Air Force.
Being deployed on a mission doesn’t come easily for a reservist. It’s the result of plenty of training and dedicated service. They have to have completed the right courses and be qualified before they can be selected and sent on a mission.
The underlying message here is that reservists remain an important part of the NZDF fabric.
While the missions I have being referring to are either ending or are being scaled back, as is the case also with our presence in Afghanistan, it would be a mistake to assume there won’t be more work.
Looking to the future it’s difficult to predict what difficulties will occur. What is possible to say is there is very likely to be a demand for the skills needed for peacekeeping or humanitarian assistance missions.
New Zealand has a Defence Force that carries a very good international reputation with good operational experience, and I think it’s likely those skills will be called upon.
And like past operations it is likely reservists will be in the manpower mix.
To those of you here tonight who are employers, with reservists on your staff, I would like to thank you as the Minister of Defence and on behalf of the Defence Force.
Reservists try to balance their job, their family life, their sporting interests, and having the time to cope with military training and exercises.
Sometimes they simply don’t get to sleep during the weekend when they undergo their training.
Having an employer who is supportive is immensely valuable, to not only the reservist but also the Defence Force.
I would both expect and hope this is not a one way street, and that the employer gains value from an employee who is a reservist.
The NZDF believes the training they provide to a reservist develops a transferable skill which is a return for the employer.
You can view your employee not so much as a good individual absent from work but an employee on leadership and development training that makes them a better employee for the experience.
That transferable skill can be assessed or identified in a number of ways.
§ Defence Force basic training promotes teamwork, punctuality, the ability to follow commands and instructions, physical fitness and the ability to push themselves at times beyond what they believe to be their physical limits.
§ One of the core skills learned is teamwork. Recruits are formed together in sections and must work as a team to achieve the objectives required of them. This forces recruits to very quickly work together and leverage strengths regardless of background, skills or prior experience.
§ One of the by-products of this approach is the learned ability to interact with people from all backgrounds and all parts of society. This is primarily forced but the need for teamwork quickly overcomes any differences or difficulties individuals may have.
§ These skills, acquired by virtue of completing basic training are common to all NZDF people – Reserve Force or Regular. The difference with reserves is that they then bring these skills and values back to their civilian workplace or employment.
§ Trade training for Reserves provides them with the specific skills required to perform their NZDF roles, but a number of these skills like drivers licenses and medical training can be, and are, valuable skills which can be used for the benefit of their civilian employers.
They are traits which are useful in any employee. And as employers the fact that you are present here tonight is a sign that you both recognise and capture these advantages.
A common theme about what the Defence Force training can offer is leadership.
And while a reservist can span both the civilian and military worlds, it’s not so easy to achieve for a full time member of the NZDF.
As a Defence Minister I am always keen to encourage ways our regular force leaders can engage with the business community and other government entities.
It is an excellent way to help groom and develop our future defence leadership, and I know the NZDF is exploring avenues on ways to allow defence people to on occasion be “deployed” into the business community.
Having a defence leader shadow a business leader like AUT’s Shadow a Leader programme has merit in my opinion.
For those of you in the business community, if you see such an opportunity come along I would encourage you to take it up.
As a final note, tonight is about presenting awards to employers who have been excellent in supporting reservists.
To those employers who are finalists in tonight’s awards I wish to congratulate you all for your achievement.
This is recognition you all deserve. Well done.