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NEWS | April 6, 2024

USINDOPACOM Commander Presents Legion of Merit to New Zealand Chief of Defense Force

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Adm. John C. Aquilino, Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, presented Air Marshal Kevin R. Short, New Zealand Defense Force Chief of Defence Force, with the Legion of Merit, Degree of Commander, in Wellington, New Zealand on April 6.

Short’s dedicated service as NZDF CDF significantly expanded the broad and robust bilateral ties between the U.S. and New Zealand, including increased opportunities for space domain awareness, humanitarian assistance, disaster response and maritime security.

At the ceremony, Aquilino praised Short’s 48 years of service and acknowledged the sacrifice, from both Short and his family, that was required to bear that burden of responsibility and enhance security.  

“Kevin, you have made me better,” said Aquilino. “You have helped the United States work better in the region to deliver the effects that are beneficial for all of our nations, and for all for the right reasons: to maintain peace and stability, and to ensure the prosperity of our nations for future generations.”

Short’s pivotal role in New Zealand’s acquisition of P-8 Poseidon and C-130J Hercules aircraft led to a generational upgrade of air capability and increased interoperability with the U.S. His continued support of bilateral initiatives like Exercise Olympic Defender, Exercise Cartwheel and the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise highlight his commitment to partnership objectives, the evolution of strategic priorities and bilateral regional cooperation. He also made a lasting impact on the bilateral defence relationship between the NZDF and USINDOPACOM through the augmentation of personnel assigned to work within the United States military.

Established by an Act of Congress on July 20, 1942, the Legion of Merit is the highest accolade that the U.S. can bestow upon a foreign leader. It is reserved for individuals who have shown exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services.

As long-time friends and economic partners, New Zealand and the U.S. will continue to work together to ensure regional security and the pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific through increased interoperability and continued support.