26 August 2019
When Nelson man Brendon Oakley was told he was being awarded a top New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) honour he had one request – that his family be able to attend the presentation.
That’s because Commander Oakley credits the team that has supported him so closely throughout his military career – his wife Lisa, son Lukas, and twin daughters Brooklyn and Ruby, as a huge reason he has been able to succeed in the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) and NZDF.
Commander Oakley, a former Deputy Head Boy at Waimea College who has recently returned with his family to live in Nelson, received the Defence Meritorious Service Medal, which is awarded for exceptionally meritorious service by a member of the NZDF.
His citation pointed first to his contribution from 2013-2016 as Commander of the NZDF Support Unit (South East Asia) based in Singapore, which provides support to NZDF operations throughout Asia.
As part of this role he was the Commanding Officer of the New Zealand Installations Auxiliary Police Force – a force of Singaporean police officers administered by New Zealand who are responsible for security and force protection of the Sembawang Naval Installation used by New Zealand, Australia the United Kingdom and United States navies.
Commander Oakley was responsible for a programme that focused on improving the policing unit’s culture and making it more responsive to the security needs of the installation’s users. The improved performance of the installation’s Auxiliary Police Force received considerable praise from the navies sharing the Sembawang port.
Commander Oakley’s posting to Singapore also made him the Assistant Defence Adviser to the New Zealand High Commission. These extra duties required him to manage a range of international relationships, and his citation noted “the NZDF’s military relationships across the region were significantly strengthened”.
The other part of his award was for his contribution as the Director of Naval Strategy from 2016-2018, where he reinvigorated the RNZN’s strategic planning and management processes.
Commander Oakley said the award was as much for his family as it is was for him.
“I couldn’t have done any of this without my family – they’ve always been there supporting me,” he said.
“I think what has meant the most about this award is the recognition it gives to Lisa and our family for what they’ve contributed and achieved.”
That included such practical ways when, as the Commanding Officer in Singapore Commander Oakley would host senior Singaporean dignitaries, to share a little New Zealand culture his daughters would sing a waiata and his son would help prepare the food.
Commander Oakley joined the RNZN in 1993 as a Weapons Engineer, drawn to the notion of service and helping people in the world while representing the country.
His career has taken him around the world working with allies and partner nations, including operational deployments in the Middle East. Recently he has completed a Masters degree at the United States Naval War College in Rhode Island, alongside senior officers from 51 other nations.
Throughout his deployments Commander Oakley said the professionalism instilled in personnel and the reputation of the NZDF meant he had always been welcomed by other nations’ militaries.
“When you work with partner militaries and organisations they are always really welcoming of New Zealand’s contribution because of the values, ethics and unique culture that we bring,” he said.