Warrant Officer of the New Zealand Defence Force, John Barclay.
by Judith Martin (Editor, Army News)
19 January 2010
When John Barclay took on the role of Warrant Officer of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) four years ago, he was entering new territory.
It was a new role both for him and the NZDF, and was established to provide an interface between the Chief of Defence Force and the NZDF’s non-commissioned personnel.
The position, however, has developed into much more than that, and the effort Warrant Officer Class One Barclay has put into its development was recognised in the recent New Years Honours.
He is to become a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
Despite the position being new, WO 1 Barclay was eminently qualified to provide the sort of advice needed; he had spent the previous four years as Sergeant Major of the Army, a position at the apex of the Army’s non commissioned ranks. He admits a touch of trepidation when he began his new job.
“I saw and recognised the wider parameters, but they were at a level I had not worked to before.”
One of his earliest challenges was supporting the move to provide professional military development for Warrant Officers throughout the Services.
“It had been a bit ad hoc till then, and I experienced that personally. The NZDF had warrant officers throughout its tactical, operational and strategic environments, yet there was very little training available to prepare selected personnel for strategic level employment.”
WO 1 Barclay says the NZDF Command and Staff College has provided “amazing” support, as did the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae and the senior leadership of NZDF. The leadership programme that has been developed is now being taught at the Staff College in the form of the Warrant Officer Advanced Course and Programme. In addition there has been interest in the programme by other countries
The complexity of the business the NZDF undertakes now means it needs highly trained, educated, quick-thinking, decision-making personnel at all levels.
“We have to train our non-commissioned personnel to not just “do stuff”, but to think and do at the same time.”
While a traditionalist in many respects, the concept of doing your job because that’s the way it’s been done that way for years holds no truck with him. “We need every person at every level to be a thinker. We need people to question and evaluate what they do and look for any changes that will make things better and be supported as such.”
He admits such a philosophy can be risky. “And that’s the challenge for us. We need to nurture, grow and use it to our advantage. If we have confidence in our personnel why wouldn’t we? The NZDF is a traditional organisation, and the concept challenges the way we have traditionally done things. But if we don’t challenge we will not become the best that we can be”.
WO 1 Barclay has taken a keen interest in NZDF culture including the NZDF’s cultural environment. He has largely contributed toward ensuring that Maori culture has the appropriate representation and through that representation defining how this contributes toward fulfilling the organisational need and mission.
“The award is not about me, but more about us as a Defence Force. The NZDF is a great organisation, and every day personnel are striving to make it the best organisation. I am just one of many who are contributing toward this”.
“It’s invigorating to watch the change and growth that is taking place within the NZDF. If we continue to train, educate and empower our people in the thinking and decision-making processes, who knows what we can achieve?”