Thames gunner named NZDF person of the year

Lance Bombardier Jake O’Hara is 2023 Soldier of the Year and NZDF Person of the Year. Photo: Supplied.

Lance Bombardier Jake O’Hara is in his element when he has a problem to solve.

The Thames man’s exemplary attitude to his career, and the way he treats his fellow soldiers, has earned him the title of New Zealand Army’s Soldier of the Year and on Friday the Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Kevin Short, announced he had also won New Zealand Defence Force Person of the Year.

Lance Bombardier O’Hara received news of being a finalist for the award whilst deployed to Hawaii on an exercise with the US military.

News of the award came as a shock to the 23-year-old gunner.

“I was surprised but pretty stoked,” he says.

Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short announces 2023 Person of the Year as Lance Bombardier Jake O’Hara.Photo: Supplied.

Lance Bombardier O’Hara is a member of 161 Battery, 16th Field Regiment, and is based in Linton.

His managers say his work ethic and personal skills and attributes set a standard worth celebrating; he says he just likes solving problems and troubleshooting, especially the technical aspects of his work in the artillery battery.

“I think it’s just the way Mum and Dad brought me up. I really care for my mates and the people around me.”

Lance Bombardier O’Hara is a Command Systems lance bombardier and his role is to be a master of all things within the Command Post.

When a new and advanced fire prediction system was introduced into service, Lance Bombardier O’Hara took it upon himself to become a Subject Matter Expert - SME.

As an SME, Lance Bombardier O’Hara represented 16th Field Regiment as the Command Systems expert on Exercise Bold Quest 23, the largest international display of new and upcoming military equipment in the world.

Lance Bombardier Jake O’Hara holds the NZDF Person of the Year trophy. Photo: Supplied.

After this international activity, he spent many hours teaching and sharing his knowledge with his Royal New Zealand Artillery colleagues, to make sure they were well-versed in the fire prediction systems’ intricacies.

He excelled during his non-commissioned officer course, supporting and mentoring fellow course members outside of regular course hours.

His managers have noted he has been a constant source of support to soldiers in stressful times, providing essential companionship and reassurance.

“It’s good to be able to help people through hardships – it’s challenging but rewarding at the same time,” he says.

Lance Bombardier O’Hara spends his spare time in the gym and learning to play the guitar.

When he goes home to Thames he enjoys going hunting with his dad.

He plans on staying in the Army and progressing through his trade, and hopes to eventually have a role in the Army’s School of Artillery where he can teach and coach other soldiers.

“To be there to guide the younger generation would be pretty cool.”

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