Just doing his job

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RECOGNISED: Lieutenant Jan Peterson received the Distinguished Service Decoration in the New Year honours. Photo supplied

JAN Peterson believes his wife deserves the New Year honour he received.

Mr Peterson, from Whakatane, was awarded the Distinguished Service Decoration as part of the New Year honours.

The 34-year-old New Zealand Navy Lieutenant was given the award in recognition of his key role in a major logistical operation on the Sinai Peninsula earlier this year.

“I have struggled with the award a bit,” Mr Peterson said. “I found out in September I was nominated, I really didn’t think I wanted it. I don’t think I deserve it and there are plenty of people who do.

“I have thought about it a bit more and I will only accept it because of the people that made it happen. Karen [Mr Peterson’s wife] deserves it more than me. She is the rock of the family and she is at home with three kids for 12 months and there is also the support from her mum and my mum. I feel a bit selfish getting the award and I feel awkward about accepting it.

“I do feel proud. It was hard work and my focus was doing a good job. If I am away from the family, I want to do a good job. I may not get the chance to represent the defence force overseas again.”

Mr Peterson, who joined the Navy in 2007, has done two overseas tours. He also went to Afghanistan in 2010.

His 12-month stint in Egypt was centred around a restructure and modernisation programme. It required the relocation of more than 500 staff, and significant infrastructure and capability development from a base, in the northern part of the peninsula, to the south.

Mr Peterson said he felt the award was for “just doing his job”.

“There were a lot of projects involved with it. The whole headquarters had to be moved as well as support to that. The south camp we moved to did not have the required electricity or protection. There were a lot of half-finished finished projects I had to take on as well as some challenging remote sites. One of the biggest things is there are a lot of civilian contractors. They needed more in terms of accommodation, whereas military you could put in a tent.

“You could only move certain number of things or work through certain ports. Getting materials was a challenge, but you go in there expecting that. One of the big challenges was prioritising the jobs and there were only so many contractors. One of the things I tried to put in place was getting the priorities in place.”

Mr and Mrs Peterson have three children 10 years and under and he said it was a challenging being away from the family.

“Except for me and my boss, everyone else was there for six months. But I was able to come home twice which was great. It used to be only one trip home. Going back after those breaks was hard. We prepped the kids for me going away. They are pretty resilient; they handled it in different ways. We did Facebook messages and video calls.”

Mr Peterson said he wanted to continue his service with the defence force, which he has done his entire working life. He said it afforded him to do things like play hockey, which he has done for New Zealand on eight occasions.

The New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration was instituted as a New Zealand Royal Honour in 2007 to recognise distinguished military service, by regular, territorial and reserve members of the New Zealand Defence Force, including command, leadership and service in an operational environment, or in support of operations.

The decoration may be awarded to all military ranks of the New Zealand Defence Force and for a singular accomplishment or instance of extraordinary performance of duty or be awarded for superior cumulative efforts over a sustained period.