The New Zealand Commissioning Course: Graduation Parade at Waiouru Military Camp

  • Hon Ron Mark

I know that for the 36 graduates of this New Zealand Commissioning Course, this is a very special  day.  Well done - you have made it!

You have all successfully completed what has probably been one of the most demanding and significant challenges of your life. 

You have undertaken a comprehensive training and selection regime that I know has been both physically and mentally challenging.  There have been challenges that tested you to the limit of your endurance and then some. It was meant to be.

I acknowledge with satisfaction that it is not only New Zealanders from all over te motu o Aotearoa that are on parade today.

I acknowledge the international graduates who accepted the challenge to train here and whose nations sent you to the New Zealand Officer Cadet School.  For some of you the challenges will have required more of you, as you acclimatised yourselves to our conditions in this beautiful part of our country which is renowned for being a place ideally suited to the task of testing, hardening and building the characters of those who wish to wear the uniforms of our nation’s Defence Force. 

I acknowledge that  for you the decision to separate from your homelands, your communities and your families might have at times tested you even more.

We salute the two Papua New Guinean, two Fijian, one Tongan, one Australian, and one Singaporean Defence Force Officer Cadets parading here today alongside their Kiwi classmates.

During this training, you have studied the art of war, both tactical and logistical, command and administration - many subjects new to you, enabling you to develop and be tested in core military skills, knowledge and understanding. 

You have learned about leadership.  You have led, been led, tested, observed, counselled and tested again - in barracks, in the field by day and night, regardless of season, weather or terrain both in New Zealand and offshore, under conditions of high stress and deprivation. 

You are now deemed ready and able to lead soldiers of your nations.

You will have studied and heard much about leadership since you attested on 16 January this year, but there is much more to learn.

Being a commissioned officer does not make you a leader.  As you accept your pips and your commissioning parchment today, I challenge you to think further and deeper about leadership - what it means to you personally, what it might mean to others and how you can apply the wisdom gained during your course for your future career and your everyday life. 

What will make you a good leader? 

Is it the qualities that you exhibit, the values you hold, or is it your actions, your intentions, the example you set?  If you ask those standing left and right of you what qualities they think make a great leader, you would probably get different responses, and your own views might also be different.

That’s natural. 

What is not a variable, is that knowing yourself is essential.  We all have different strengths and different weaknesses.  Even a quick examination of history shows different people with different personal attributes who have gone on to become great leaders.

Look within yourself. Build on your strengths and address your weaknesses.  This past year has exposed you to your true inner being. Only you truly know yourself completely,  but others observe.

As an officer you will be judged by what you do, not what you say.  So when you make a mistake, be accountable.  Own it, fix it, learn from it and move on.  Knowing and being true to yourself is crucial to successful leadership. 

And do not be afraid of making mistakes.  Learn from them.  Mistakes build experience. Seek wise counsel. Learn from other people’s mistakes and successes and always, always test and re-evaluate yourself. 

When you find things are tough, think of this course and those who found it harder than you.

When you find you are slacking off, remind yourself of the standards that were set here, those which are demanded of others, and why. 

When you are thinking this will get you by today, ask yourself: would that be accepted here and would that be accepted of any soldier?

When  you find you are getting tired, think of this as your Nemesis, give yourself a kick in the backside, get up and get going.

And when you are feeling sorry for yourself, think of the men and women whose lives and wellbeing you are responsible for.

The most crucial challenge you will face when you leave this place will be the challenge of leading yourself. If you can’t lead yourself, you won't be able to lead anybody.

By your presence on parade today, it is clear to me that as the next generation of Army and Defence Force leaders, you have accepted the challenge to maintain the Army’s reputation and professional standards in the coming decades.

It is also clear that you understand the need for high personal discipline and that you are willing to live your life in accordance with the Army’s core values of Courage, Comradeship, Integrity and Commitment.

They are now your values, and you should be proud of that.

You are joining the Army at an exciting time.

From this course you will now advance to professional training in your chosen Corps.

I trust you will look back on your time here at the Officer Cadet School, and indeed this graduation parade,  as I do, with pride and satisfaction in the skills learned and the friendships made.

And those friendships will be lifelong, including for  your classmates from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Australia, and Singapore. 

The importance to our country of the relationships and the bond that now exists between you as classmates should never be under-estimated, given the interdependence, reliance and shared interests of our respective nations.  You will never know where or when your paths will cross again,or what appointments you may hold at that time, and how important that might then prove to be.  Do not lose contact with each other.

I congratulate you on your achievements so far, and I wish you, as fellow graduates, all the very best. 

I would also like to acknowledge the families and friends who are here today to support and celebrate with the graduates. You have been the support network and will continue to be for our new officers.  For that I thank you. 

Finally I wish to acknowledge the training staff. 

Your responsibilities are heavy. 

Your training determines the nature and ethos of the Army for many years to come.

For the young men and women on parade you, the trainers, are the first encounter they have had with the Army’s values. Clearly you have done a great job, and I thank you for your dedication.

To all on parade: enjoy the holiday season be safe, be kind to yourselves and each other and return refreshed and ready to meet the next phase of your life in the Army.

Go well. Go hard. Go strong.

Serve proudly.  Lead wisely.