23 July 2019
Former Greymouth man Staff Sergeant Aaron McMillan has been recognised by the New Zealand Defence Force for his service in Afghanistan in 2017 and 2018.
Staff Sergeant McMillan has been awarded a Chief of Defence Force Commendation Medal, which is awarded for performance well above that usually expected of a person performing their role.
Staff Sergeant McMillan was deployed to Afghanistan as part of a United Kingdom-led mission, with support from Australia, Denmark and New Zealand, to mentor the Afghan National Army Officer Academy in Kabul. The Academy is a leading officer training establishment developing effective junior leaders in the Afghan National Army.
Staff Sergeant McMillan’s work led to a re-write of the objectives for field training and combat life support exercises, freeing up time that was able to be invested in basic training to better prepare the junior cadets.
He also championed informal field training instructor development, which had the benefits of empowering the instructors, building their confidence and increasing their trust in the mentoring team.
His citation said he was an outstanding ambassador for the New Zealand Defence Force. In a mission comprising 67 mentors and with the lowest rank of sergeant, he outperformed mentors of senior rank and his overall performance was described by headquarters staff as impressive and remarkable.
Staff Sergeant McMillan, who is part of the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Platoon of 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment at Linton Army Camp near Palmerston North, said he took the citation as an acknowledgement of all the good work being achieved daily by members of his Regiment.
He attended John Paul II High School and joined the New Zealand Army in 1997, primarily for the opportunity to serve overseas, and said he had stayed because he worked with some of the best people he had ever met.
“People who are motivated to do an often unglamorous but highly rewarding vocation,” he said.
Among his career highlights are serving in Afghanistan, commanding an infantry section of eight personnel in Timor Leste, helping secure the capital Dili, and training soldiers of the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Platoon of the Infantry Regiment.
“I also spent a memorable five weeks on a visual tracking course, learning what signs people, animals and vehicles leave behind and how to follow them to gain information,” he said.