Otago Man Recognised for Improving Afghan Military Training

16 July 2019

A New Zealand Army soldier from Otago has been recognised by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) for his outstanding contribution to New Zealand’s training mission in Afghanistan

Major Cory Neale, who grew up in Balclutha and went to South Otago High School, has received a Defence Meritorious Service Medal for his role as a key member of a multinational mentoring effort at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy, near Kabul. 

The New Zealand Defence Meritorious Service Medal (DMSM) recognises exceptionally meritorious service by any member of the NZDF.

Major Neale deployed to Afghanistan from November 2017 to August 2018 as part of the Coalition training mission that included personnel from the United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark and New Zealand.

The Academy is considered to be the premier tactical-level officer training establishment developing effective junior leaders in the Afghan National Army. It has trained more than 4,200 Afghan Army Officer Cadets since 2013, including 242 female officers. 

Major Neale’s role was as a mentor, and he was also the Senior National Officer, leading a team of 10 New Zealanders.

His citation included the observation from the Senior Officer and Chief Mentor at the Academy describing Major Neale’s contribution as outstanding. His output was said to be of exceptionally high quality and it was largely through his efforts and leadership of his team that more than 600 high-quality cadets were delivered to the next stage of their officer training.

“A strong team player blessed with strong inter-personal skills and a good sense of humour, his dedication, professional excellence and exceptional mentoring skills marked him as a person of rare ability and character who consistently outperformed many of the other mentors at his rank level,” the citation read. 

Major Neale joined the NZDF to take advantage of the opportunity to get a free university degree, and stayed because of the comraderie and shared sense of purpose to serve New Zealand.

“It helped that my grandfather Cliff served in the Second World War and even my sister served for a short time,” he said.

Apart from serving in Afghanistan, some of his career highlights have been working with the United Nations in South Sudan in 2014-15, and his current role as Chief Instructor of the New Zealand Army Combat School, Land Operations Training Centre based at Linton Military Camp in Manawatu.

“In my current role I lead the trainers of our fighting capability. This includes playing a vital role in shaping the direction, readiness and equipment needed to do this now and into the future, should we ever need it,” he said. 

He was honoured to receive the award, which he said resulted from stepping up to meet a big challenge, while leading high-performing NZDF men and women to achieve their mission.

This page was last reviewed on 16 July 2019.