Ambassador Bill McCormick, Air Vice Marshal Bamfield representing the Chief of Defence Force, my parliamentary colleagues and recipients and families.
Firstly congratulations to all recipients presented today with the Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medals.
It is rare for Defence Force Personnel to have exemplary service on operational service recognised by other nations.
The only recent precedent is the recognition of the New Zealand Special Air Service for service in Afghanistan with the award of the US Presidential Unit Citation to the entire unit in 2004.
As recipients of these awards you can take pride in your achievements representing New Zealand in a demanding and challenging environment.
New Zealanders in Afghanistan have worked closely with military and civilian personnel from many nations. They have established a reputation for the ability to perform whatever task they have been given in an exemplary way.
As Ambassador McCormick has eloquently pointed out, the very special skill of New Zealanders in peacekeeping and security missions has been to work alongside local people and to win their confidence, respect and friendship.
Since first deploying to Afghanistan in 2002, over 500 New Zealand Defence Force personnel have served in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
New Zealand's primary contribution has been the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan province.
This involves New Zealand Defence Force personnel working with members of the New Zealand Police, NZAID and military and civil agencies of other nations to play a vital role in the stabilisation and rebuilding of the Bamyan Province.
New Zealanders have contributed to Bamyan Province becoming one of the most stable, secure and progressive provinces in Afghanistan.
Other New Zealand personnel fill staff or support roles at headquarters in Kabul and Bagram where they play a vital role in liaison with the coalition members deployed across the country.
These awards reflect positively on the calibre of the individuals within the New Zealand Defence Force and their training.
You have travelled to the other side of the globe and operated in a difficult environment for a sustained period. That you have won respect from colleagues of other forces is a great credit to you and the Defence Force.
I would also like to acknowledge the families of those who serve. They share the sacrifice of separation.
Leaving home for a sustained period can place enormous strain on the family. Routines are disrupted and those left behind have to maintain things from day to day in the absence of a key member of the family.
I know that spouses, partners and children of those here today will take justifiable pride in the support they have given directly and indirectly to those who have earned awards.
In conclusion New Zealand and the United States have enjoyed a long-standing and important defence relationship. These awards by the United States Government acknowledge the high value placed on the contribution made by New Zealanders to Operation Enduring Freedom.
I extend my personal congratulations and those of the New Zealand government to all the recipients and to thank the United States Government for their recognition of the work of these New Zealanders.