The Royal New Zealand Air Force’s Aviator of the Year for 2022 has been named as Acting Sergeant Rebekah Richardson.
Acting Sergeant Richardson is posted to Headquarters Joint Forces New Zealand at Trentham, where she is in the tri-service Deployed Personnel Support Centre, providing personal and administrative support to deploying individuals across a wide range of missions.
Announcing the award, Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Clark said Acting Sergeant Richardson had been recognised for outstanding performance of her duties.
“She also exemplifies the New Zealand Defence Force core values of Courage, Commitment, Comradeship and Integrity, in the best interests of deployed personnel and in making a key contribution to the success of Defence Force missions,” he said.
“She shows incredible determination, perseverance and ability to build relationships and trust with key stakeholders.
“Acting Sergeant Richardson is an outstanding ambassador for the Air Force.”
Acting Sergeant Richardson grew up in Wainuiomata and joined the Air Force at age 21, following in her father’s footsteps. After basic training she chose logistics as her trade.
“Logistics appealed to me the most because it is so diverse and there are a lot of opportunities – it’s not one job for your whole career,” she said.
Nine years later she has been a part of numerous international Defence Force missions across Asia, the Middle East and Antarctica, and New Zealand’s support to Ukraine in the immediate aftermath of the invasion by Russia earlier this year.
However, her career highlight to date was being deployed on a humanitarian aid and disaster relief operation to Papua New Guinea in 2018 and seeing the tangible difference her job made to the local population.
“We were deployed for a couple of weeks delivering aid to remote locations. It was great seeing the impact we were having delivering the aid to them. Seeing the thankful looks on the locals’ faces is something I’ll never forget,” she said.
Acting Sergeant Richardson said receiving recognition was “a lot to take in”.
“I pride myself in going the extra mile for our customers, so to speak, and I get a thrill knowing I have helped our people to the best of my ability.”