Air Force Names Top Medic

Warrant Officer Cocker, Air Force personnel and Sergeant Watt’s family members honour Watts’ memory with a ceremony at Base Ohakea.
Warrant Officer Cocker, Air Force personnel and Sergeant Watt’s family members honour Watts’ memory with a ceremony at Base Ohakea.

10 December 2014

Medics play a vital role in the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). To recognise their importance, the inaugural Gordon Watt Memorial Award for the RNZAF Top Medic was presented to Warrant Officer Michael Cocker at Base Ohakea last Friday.

The Top Medic award was named after Sergeant (SGT) Gordon Watt as he remains the only RNZAF service member killed on active service overseas since World War II. He was killed by a landmine in Vietnam on 1 March 1970. SGT Watt was a medical orderly, and his widow Gael Keighley and their sons Ali and Darrell, gave the RNZAF permission to name the award in his honour.

Born in Invercargill and now residing in Blenheim, Warrant Officer Cocker has served for 37 years in the RNZAF. Throughout his career he has embodied excellence and the core values of Comradeship, Commitment and Courage. He has deployed on several missions including to Bougainville, East Timor, Kyrgystan and to Indonesia in the wake of the Boxing Day tsunami.

Warrant Officer Cocker was presented the award by Operational Support Commander Group Captain Colin Marshall, and the Watt family. He said he was honoured and privileged to be named as the inaugural award recipient.

“When I joined in 1977 my Warrant Officer was SGT Watt’s former boss and he instilled in us the values and ethos of those soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War. I’ve spent my whole career trying to live up to their standards so to find out I was the award recipient was amazing.”

Warrant Officer Cocker is proud of the job the RNZAF medics do and he regularly tells younger medics coming through the ranks that being a medic is all about putting others before yourself.

“Every day is different as a medic in the RNZAF. We’re present at every exercise, on search and rescue missions and sometimes we are the only healthcare professional readily available. It is a round the clock job because you never know when your skills will be needed.

“I’ve been fortunate to deploy to countries where medical assistance has made a real difference. When we went to Indonesia to help the tsunami survivors I was the medic on board our C-130 Hercules that airlifted refugees from Banda Aceh to the capital. It was my job to look after their medical needs during the flight,” said Warrant Officer Cocker.


For more information contact Defence Communications Group 021 487 980 

About the Gordon Watt Memorial Award

  • Will be presented to recognise the top RNZAF Medic who displays excellence and the NZDF values of Courage, Commitment and Comradeship.
  • The Award is made from the cross section of the middle segment of an RNZAF Iroquois main rotor blade. The Huey is synonymous with the Vietnam War and it was in this conflict that SGT Watt was killed in action.
  • The Award displays SGT Watt’s New Zealand and foreign campaign service medals.


This page was last reviewed on 11 December 2014.